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Twins, Indians Conclude Three-Game Set At Target Field

(Sports Network) – Having already clinched the American League Central title for a second straight year and for the sixth time in nine seasons, the Minnesota Twins can focus on locking up home-field advantage in the playoffs.

The Twins shoot for a three-game sweep of the Cleveland Indians this afternoon from Target Field and clinched the division thanks to Tuesday’s 6-4 victory combined with Chicago’s loss in Oakland. Trailing 4-2 heading into the bottom of the eighth inning, the Twins scored four runs to take the lead for good.

Delmon Young and Denard Span each had an RBI single, while Jose Morales added a sacrifice fly and Orlando Hudson doubled in a run for Minnesota, which is 16-5 in its last 21 games. Jim Thome homered and Glen Perkins picked up the win with a scoreless inning of relief. Matt Capps posted his 15th save in the ninth and starter Scott Baker lasted five innings, allowing two runs, one of which was earned, with seven strikeouts.

“Considering we’ve been to Game 163 the last couple years, I think this might work out a little bit better for us,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said on the team’s website.

Minnesota, which locked up the AL Central with 11 games left in the season, has played without MVP catcher Joe Mauer the last two games because of a left knee injury. He’s expected to miss today’s bout with the Tribe and may rest even more now that the Twins have locked up the division. An MRI on the knee revealed some tissue inflammation but nothing more serious.

The Twins, 45-18 since the All-Star break, look to Nick Blackburn Wednesday to complete the sweep. He’s 9-10 with a 5.43 ERA in 25 games (23 starts) and lost his most recent appearance last Friday in a 3-1 setback versus Oakland. He gave up three runs in seven innings and surrendered eight hits.

Blackburn recently tossed eight shutout innings in a no-decision against the Indians on September 11 at Progressive Field and is 5-3 in 12 career games (10 starts) in this series.

Cleveland will try to put the brakes on a three-game losing streak and salvage the finale of this set. Fausto Carmona took the mound last night and did not record a decision after he limited Minnesota to a pair of runs and six hits in 5 2/3 innings. Justin Masterson was saddled with the loss for giving up three runs in the decisive four-run eighth inning.

“Good effort by Carmona, he pitched very well,” said Cleveland manager Manny Acta. “We couldn’t get it done tonight.”

Drew Sutton and Travis Hafner each had two hits and an RBI in defeat. Hoping to bring the Tribe back into the win today will be youngster Carlos Carrasco, who’s 1-0 with a 2.70 earned run average in four starts this season. He won his first major league game the previous time out in an 11-4 triumph at Kansas City last Friday, as he yielded three runs in six innings with six K’s.

Carrasco faced the Twins for the first time on September 11 this season and did not post a decision, despite pitching 7 1/3 shutout innings in a 1-0 loss.

The Twins are 11-6 against the AL Central-rival Indians this season and have won six of the previous seven matchups between the clubs.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.