Danny Valencia once again provided a big hit with the bases loaded, and Tsuyoshi Nishioka added the insurance as the Minnesota Twins defeated the Cleveland Indians at Target Field on Wednesday afternoon by a final tally of 7-5. The win gave Minnesota a split in their four-game series with the Indians, allowing them to climb back to five games out of first in the American League Central standings. . .exactly where they were when the series began.
Minnesota got on the board early, taking a quick 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning thanks to a Ben Revere single to left, a double by Alexi Casilla to score Revere, and a single by Joe Mauer that plated Casilla. The Indians couldn't manage any offense against Twins' starter Nick Blackburn right away, but they then took the lead with a three-spot in the top of the fourth. Back-to-back singles by Ezequiel Carrera and Asrdubal Cabrera and a walk to Travis Hafner loaded the bases for Cleveland with nobody out.
After Blackburn struck out Carlos Santana, Matt LaPorta lifted a fly ball to Revere in center. It looked like it would be deep enough to score one run for sure, but Revere wound up dropping the ball, resulting in a two-base error that allowed the Indians to tie the game at two. Orlando Cabrera then grounded out to second, bringing another run home and giving Cleveland a 3-2 lead.
The Twins didn't take long to strike back, however, as they took the lead back in the bottom of the fourth. Michael Cuddyer led the inning off with a single, and Jim Thome doubled to center to bring him home and tie the game at three. After Danny Valencia grounded out, Delmon Young singled to center to bring Thome home and give Minnesota back the lead, 4-3.
In the top of the sixth, Hafner got a one-out double, and moved to second base on a groundout by Santana. While facing LaPorta, Drew Butera allowed a passed ball, and though it looked like Blackburn got to the plate in time, Butera double-clutched the throw, allowing Hafner to score and tie the game once again.
That's how things stayed until the bottom of the eighth, when Casilla led off the inning with a ground-rule double to left, and Joe Mauer singled to put runners on the corners with nobody out. After Cuddyer struck out, Jim Thome drew a walk (and was pinch-run for by Luke Hughes) to load the bases. Up to the plate came Valencia once again, and just as he did on Tuesday night, he came through with a base hit, this one a single to center off of Orlando Cabrera's glove, bringing Casilla in to score and giving the Twins a 5-4 lead. After Delmon Young struck out for out number two, shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka singled to left, plating both Mauer and Hughes and giving the Twins a 7-4 cushion going into the ninth inning.
Joe Nathan came on to close out the ball game, coming in to relieve Matt Capps, who picked up a couple of big outs to close out the top of the eighth inning. The ninth was not without its drama, as Nathan allowed a one-out solo home run to Indians' third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall to cut the lead to 7-5, but Nathan then retired Austin Kearns and Luis Valbuena to end the ball game.
Capps was credited with the victory for Minnesota, lifting his record to 3-5 on the year. The save for Nathan was his sixth on the year. The loss went to Cleveland reliever Tony Sipp, dropping his record for the season to 4-2. Neither starter figured into the decision, with both Blackburn and Cleveland's Josh Tomlin allowing four runs in six innings of work and leaving with the game tied.
No rest for the Twins after this one, as they open up another four-game set at Target Field against the new American League Central leaders, the Detroit Tigers. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 PM Central time, and the pitching match-up should be a good one, as we will see the Tigers send right-hander Justin Verlander (12-5, 2.29 ERA) to the hill, while the Twins will go with right-hander Carl Pavano (6-6, 4.08 ERA).