On Tuesday night at Target Field, the Minnesota Twins were in danger of dropping their third consecutive game to the Cleveland Indians, a situation that would have seen them fall eight games back in the American League Central standings and put a screeching halt to the momentum that the Twins had managed since June 1.
Fortunately for the Twins, Danny Valencia wasn't having it.
With the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, Valencia blooped a single into left field to score two runs and give the Twins a dramatic 2-1 come-from-behind victory over the Indians.
Both starting pitchers, Minnesota's Francisco Liriano and Cleveland's Justin Masterson, traded zeroes until the top of the fifth inning. Lou Marson led the inning off with a single to right field, and then Liriano hit Indians' left fielder Travis Buck in the helmet with a fastball. Buck was shaken a bit, but walked off the field under his own power. Luis Valbuena came in to run for Buck, and gave the Tribe runners on first and second with nobody out. Ezequiel Carrera then singled to right to load the bases. After Liriano induced an infield pop-up from Orlando Cabrera, Asdrubal Cabrera. . .no relation. . .lifted a fly ball to right deep enough to score Marson and give the Indians a 1-0 lead.
For a while, it looked as though the single run would hold up, as Masterson plowed through the Twins for 7.2 innings, throwing 104 pitches and allowing only four hits. Tony Sipp came in to register the final out of the bottom of the eighth inning, and after Glen Perkins set the Tribe down in order in the top of the ninth, Cleveland turned to closer Chris Perez to attempt to seal the deal.
Perez started the inning by getting Alexi Casilla to fly out to left field for out number one. That was the last out that Cleveland would register, as Perez followed that up with a walk to Joe Mauer. After that, Michael Cuddyer ripped a double to left field to put two Twins in scoring position with one out. The Indians then intentionally walked Jim Thome to load the bases and bring up Valencia. In his previous at-bat in the bottom of the seventh, Valencia missed out on an opportunity for an RBI when he came up with runners on first and second with one out and proceeded to ground into a double play.
He made the best of this opportunity, however, as he took a 2-1 offering from Perez. . .his former teammate at the University of Miami. . .and lofted it into left field for a single. Mauer scored the tying run, and Cuddyer came in with the game-winner right behind him as the Twins mobbed Valencia in celebration of their 2-1 victory.
Perkins got credit for the victory for his work in the top of the ninth, moving his record to 2-1 on the year. Perez, who blew just his second save in 24 opportunities, took the loss to drop his record to 2-5. Liriano did not figure into the decision, having allowed one run on four hits (while walking four) in six innings of work. The victory for the Twins leaves them six games in back of the Indians in the American League Central.
Final game of this four-game set between the Indians and the Twins will take place on Wednesday afternoon at Target Field, with the first pitch scheduled for 12:10 PM Central time. The Indians will turn to right-hander Josh Tomlin (11-4, 4.03 ERA), while the Twins will go with right-hander Nick Blackburn (7-6, 3.99 ERA).