Indians 10, Twins 4
CLEVELAND (AP)—Kenny Lofton’s homecoming ended with strawberry pie smeared across his smiling face.
His return couldn’t have been any sweeter.
“It tasted pretty good,” he said. “I might have to get some more of those.”
Jhonny Peralta homered twice and Lofton began his third go-round with Cleveland by getting three hits and playing left field for the first time as the Indians beat the Minnesota Twins 10-4 on Friday night.
Lofton’s return to Jacobs Field—his baseball home for nine seasons—was all the 40-year-old could have asked for. He received several loud ovations and got blasted with a whipped-cream pie by Trot Nixon, Cleveland’s resident prankster who has been ambushing teammates during postgame TV interviews all season.
“It was emotional at first,” Lofton said. “The fans were cheering and I was trying to calm myself down the first time up. I didn’t know what to expect and it was nice to go out there and show the fans I have a little bit left.”
Cleveland improved to 6-0 this season against Minnesota, the defending AL Central champion, which dropped its fifth straight and is barely hanging on in the playoff race.
The Twins, who have been outscored 30-5 in their last three games, made two errors and manager Ron Gardenhire lambasted his team’s effort.
“A terrible game from our side,” Gardenhire said. “We didn’t catch the ball or make plays and that’s not good enough. It’s getting embarrassing and that’s what I told them. It’s one thing to get beat and one to get embarrassed. That’s not how it goes around here and we are not going to start now.
“Misplays give them 5-6 outs an inning and you’re not going to win like that. It was just a bad night for us. We just stunk. That’s not acceptable. We have to be better than that. We just didn’t play.”
One of the players who helped Cleveland dominate the division during the 1990s, Lofton returned to the Indians, who acquired the five-time All-Star outfielder in a trade with Texas for minor league catcher Max Ramirez.
Lofton, a lifetime leadoff hitter and center fielder, batted second and played left. He finished 3-for-5 with an RBI in his first game for Cleveland since leaving after the Indians were eliminated in the 2001 playoffs.
That was the last time they made the postseason, and the Indians are hoping Lofton can help them get back.
“We got a shot in the arm,” Byrd said of Lofton’s arrival. “We got somebody who knows how to win in playoff situations, a gamer. We got a guy with character and a guy we are excited to have in the clubhouse.”
Byrd allowed three earned runs and 10 hits in seven innings, and got the Twins to hit into three double plays.
Lofton received a loud cheer as he ran out to left. The five-time All-Star center fielder could only recall playing there in an All-Star game.
He got tested right away at his new spot when Joe Mauer, Minnesota’s No. 3 hitter, hit a fly ball that tailed away from Lofton, who caught it for the third out near the warning track before lofting it into the stands.
“Once I got that out of the way, getting it in a game situation, I was fine after that,” Lofton said.
As one fan held up a sign that said: “Welcome Home Kenny,” Lofton, batting in the No. 2 hole behind Grady Sizemore, took off his helmet to salute fans during a standing ovation before his first at-bat.
He struck out, but provided a spark during the Indians’ six-run third.
After Josh Barfield reached on an error and Sizemore walked, Lofton dropped a bunt that bounced off the plate, and by the time Bonser grabbed it, he had no chance of throwing out the speedster.
“I always felt at home here,” Lofton said, “even when I was on the visiting side.”
Travis Hafner singled and Peralta made it 4-0 with his 15th homer, a 436-foot shot into the left-field bleachers. Casey Blake and Trot Nixon followed with singles, Kelly Shoppach drove in a run with a fielder’s choice and Barfield singled home another run in his second at-bat of the inning.
Lofton had a chance to do more damage but flied out to left field with the bases loaded on reliever Ramon Ortiz’s first pitch.
Bonser was charged with four runs and nine hits in 2 2-3 innings, his shortest outing in 21 starts this season.
Peralta connected for his 16th homer off Juan Rincon, giving him three career multihomer games.
The Indians are 22-12 in the AL Central. … Called up before the game, Twins 3B Brian Buscher singled in his first major league at-bat in the third. … Lofton, Cleveland’s career steals leader with 450, owns six of the top seven single-season steal totals in club history. His 75 steals in 1996 are a club record. … The Indians have outscored the Twins 46-18.