Indians 9, Twins 7
CLEVELAND (AP)—Cliff Lee reached into his locker and then tossed some sneakers and a few personal items into a cardboard box readied for shipment.
A little earlier, Lee showed he hadn’t packed in the season.
Lee (12-8) made it through 5 2-3 innings, allowing five runs and eight hits. The performance wasn’t pretty, but the left-hander, who opened the season 10-1, will take it after going 1-7 with a 10.03 ERA in his previous 11 outings.
“I went from doing real good to real bad,” Lee said, attempting to explain his second-half slide. “I’ve got to figure out how to cut those stretches short.”
Sizemore homered in the fifth inning as the Indians built a 7-2 lead and hung on to snap a four-game losing streak against the playoff-bound Twins.
“We’ve got to finish strong,” Ben Broussard said. “You don’t want to end on a bad note.”
Minnesota rookie J.D. Durbin (0-1) didn’t make it out of the fourth inning of his first career start. The Twins have lost three in a row since qualifying for the postseason, but manager Ron Gardenhire isn’t too concerned.
“We had an emotional series in Chicago,” he said. “You know there is going to be a little bit of a letdown. But I like the way we kept battling. Hopefully, that will carry over and we’ll get over this little funk and start winning some ballgames.”
The atmosphere was much different from when the clubs last met in a series at Jacobs Field. In mid-August, the Indians pulled within one game of first-place Minnesota and the three-game series at Jacobs Field attracted more than 100,000.
The Twins won the series finale and never looked back in the AL Central, clinching their third straight division title earlier this week.
Only 18,053 were on hand for the first game of Cleveland’s final four-game homestand.
Lee gave them something to savor in the offseason with a solid outing to build on for 2005. The lefty has won two of his last three starts, a positive finish following nearly two months of failure.
“I’ve been humbled,” said the 26-year-old lefty. “I started out cruising pretty good. But the hitters started adjusting to me, started to figure me out and I didn’t do a good job of handling that.”
Sizemore’s two-run homer off reliever Matt Guerrier put the Indians up 7-2 in the fifth.
Casey Blake opened the inning with a double. Two outs later, Sizemore, Cleveland’s expected center fielder on opening day next season, lined a pitch over the wall in center that rattled around the tables in the picnic area.
The Twins came back with three runs to pull within 7-5 in the sixth. They loaded the bases before Luis Rivas lined out to left as Lee was lucky to get a sacrifice fly.
Lee was pulled after walking Henry Blanco to reload the bases. Shannon Stewart followed with a two-run single off David Riske to bring the Twins within two, but Riske was able to work out of the inning.
Crisp’s RBI double in the seventh pushed the Indians’ lead to 8-5, and Bard hit his first homer since last Sept. 20 an inning later to make it 9-6.
The Indians pounced early on Durbin, the Twins’ top minor league pitcher in 2002, tagging him for five runs in three-plus innings.
The right-hander fell behind 2-0 in the first on consecutive, two-out RBI singles by Broussard and Crisp.
Twins LHP Johan Santana, who is 19-6 with a 2.65 ERA, goes for his 20th win Friday night. Minnesota has had 14 20-game winners, the most recent Brad Radke in 1997. … Despite the win, the Indians are just 8-12 in September and 15-30 in the season’s final month the past two years. … Cleveland manager Eric Wedge was ejected in the eighth for arguing with first-base umpire Tim Timmons.