Indians 4, Twins 3

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—The Cleveland Indians climbed back to the .500 mark with some clutch hits, a fine performance from their ace starter and another close win over one of their AL Central competitors.

Victor Martinez’s two-run homer broke a sixth-inning tie Tuesday night, lifting the Indians past the Minnesota Twins 4-3 on another wild night between the division rivals.

It began with the return, and rapid exit, of Indians slugger Juan Gonzalez. Out since spring training with a strained right hamstring, Gonzalez aggravated the injury while running out a grounder in his first at-bat and never made it to right field.

But Cleveland recovered, winning for the eighth time in 10 games—and fourth in a row—to begin an important, season-long 12-game road trip. The Indians play second-place Minnesota two more times before heading to division-leading Chicago for a weekend series.

“I think we’re way better than .500,” said C.C. Sabathia, who pitched into the eighth. “I think we’re going to win this division, and .500 ain’t going to get it done.”

These clubs have exchanged their share of stares, shoves, trash talk and elbows—plus plenty of inside pitches and hit batsmen—since the century turned. Major League Baseball told both managers before their series in Cleveland last week that bad behavior would not be tolerated.

Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire got ejected again for arguing—as he was during a game against the Indians at the Metrodome on May 5. This time, Gardenhire got mad when home plate umpire Bill Hohn warned both benches after starter Carlos Silva threw high in the sixth and Jody Gerut had to duck.

Sabathia (4-3), who fueled the mutual dislike earlier this season by saying he hated the Twins, threw inside to Shannon Stewart in the second inning— drawing some boos from the crowd.

Stewart was fined for elbowing Cleveland reliever Jason Davis at home plate in that May 5 game, shortly after he was hit by a pitch from Davis. Davis has not been well-regarded in Minnesota since throwing at Torii Hunter in a July 2003 game here.

Gardenhire thought Sabathia was glaring at Juan Castro after his two-run double in the second gave the Twins a brief 2-1 lead. Stewart was buzzed after the hit by Castro, who said he wasn’t looking at Sabathia.

“Somebody’s going to have to tell me where we’re going with this,” Gardenhire said. “When they try to drill us, which I know what happens with that guy, then it’s going to have to come the other way. Look at how many of our guys have been hit to their guys. I don’t have an answer. All I know is my wife is mad at me, because it’s going to cost me more money.”

Gardenhire was fined $750 for throwing his hat in disgust after the May 5 ejection. After he got tossed on Tuesday, Gardenhire flipped his hat again on the way to the clubhouse.

Getting two outs in the eighth before walking Matthew LeCroy and yielding to Bob Howry, Sabathia gave up seven hits, three runs and two walks while striking out three—his first victory in four starts against the Twins this season.

The burly left-hander wasn’t overpowering, but he consistently threw strikes and effectively used his changeup to keep the opposition off balance and swinging at the first pitch. Sabathia threw 95 pitches.

“If I can do that, I think I can pretty much beat anybody,” he said.

Bob Wickman pitched the ninth for his 14th save in 16 opportunities, getting pinch-hitter Justin Morneau on a long flyout to center field with a runner on second.

“The guys are working hard to push in the right direction,” manager Eric Wedge said.

Silva (3-3), who gave up just one earned run in his previous 17 innings, allowed nine hits, four runs and one walk without any strikeouts in seven innings.

A groundball pitcher who thrives on a powerful sinker, Silva got help from his infield defense—especially second baseman Nick Punto. Cleveland hit into three of its four double plays with Silva pitching, but the long ball did him in.

Ben Broussard, 8-for-18 with five RBIs in his career against the right-hander, hit the first pitch of the fourth inning into the folded stacks of football seats above right field to tie the game at 2.

Then Martinez hit a two-out shot that traveled to just about the same spot, putting the Indians up 4-3.

“I feel like I tried to stay in,” Silva said. “I made a couple mistakes.”

The Twins started the fourth with consecutive singles, but Michael Cuddyer hit his first pitch into a double play.

“We need a better at-bat there,” Gardenhire said.

Notes

Castro drove in all three runs for Minnesota. … Gonzalez’s status is day to day. … This was the 18th career ejection for Gardenhire, who is in his fourth season as a manager. … Casey Blake replaced Gonzalez in the cleanup spot. He went 0-for-3. … Twins starters have thrown six-plus innings in 20 of 21 outings.

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