Lee gets 14th win, Indians edge Twins 5-4
CLEVELAND (AP)—Cliff Lee’s season of redemption rolls on.
Lee, who at this time one year ago was packing his bags for the minor leagues, stayed on pace to become Cleveland’s first 20-game winner in 34 years and the Indians ended an eight-game losing streak inside the AL Central by holding off the slumping Minnesota Twins 5-4 on Friday night.
The Twins lost their fifth straight as well as center fielder Carlos Gomez, who left the game with a back injury and spent a few hours in the hospital before being released.
Lee (14-2) went just 5-8 and was demoted to Triple-A Buffalo on July 27 last year, both a low point and crossroad of a career that seemed to be in jeopardy.
But the 29-year-old, who started for the AL in the All-Star game, became baseball’s first 14-game winner and avenged one of his two losses this season. The Twins defeated the left-hander on July 6.
Spotted a four-run lead in the first inning against Livan Hernandez (10-7), Lee allowed six hits and struck out 10 in eight dominant innings without a walk to improve to 6-0 at home. He retired the side in order five times, needing just seven pitches to do so in both the fourth and fifth.
The Indians haven’t had a 20-game winner since Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry went 21-13 in 1974, but that’s the last thing on Lee’s mind.
“I don’t put a number on my goals,” he said. “I don’t care if I get the win or anything else as long as the Indians get the win.”
Joe Mauer led off with a single and Morneau, who won the recent All-Star Home Run Derby, launched his 16th homer to right. Delmon Young doubled, forcing Indians manager Eric Wedge to bring in Rafael Perez.
Pinch-hitter Mike Redmond hit a liner that first baseman Ryan Garko grabbed with a diving back-hander. Perez got Brendan Harris on a comebacker and then retired Nick Punto on a sharp grounder that went through his legs and was grabbed by second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera, who threw to first to give Perez his second career save.
Cabrera entered in the eighth, replacing Jamey Carroll, who left with a strained left hamstring.
As the ball skipped under him, Perez thought the game was tied.
“I thought it was going through,” Perez said through an interpreter. “I didn’t know Cabrera was there.”
The Twins, who came in trailing the division-leading Chicago White Sox by 2 1/2 games, fell to 0-4 on their six-game trip to New York and Cleveland.
Gomez was immobilized, carted from the field and transported to Lutheran Hospital after crashing into the outfield wall at full speed while making a spectacular catch in the first. The 22-year-old sustained a lower back injury, but was back in the ballpark 10 minutes after the final out.
“I never had so much pain in my life,” said Gomez, who walked gingerly into the clubhouse. “When it happened, I was scared. I didn’t know what I did, but I thought I broke something. I ran into it full speed.”
Kelly Shoppach drove in two runs and Franklin Gutierrez homered for the Indians, who went 0-8 on a trip to Chicago, Minnesota and Detroit from June 30-July 9, a stretch when the defending Central champions dropped 10 straight and were forced to trade ace CC Sabathia.
Gomez was injured making a lunging catch and smashing into the padded wall in left-center.
After a long sprint, Gomez jumped when he reached the warning track and snagged Ben Francisco’s drive before slamming into the wall with his right side. As Gomez writhed around grabbing his back in pain, he alertly flipped the ball to left fielder Young but Sizemore tagged up and scored from second.
“I felt the warning track, I jumped and the next thing I knew, I hit the wall and was on the ground. I was in pain, but I knew I had to throw the ball, so I did,” Gomez said. “They gave me an MRI and said the test was OK. I think they said I should be OK, but I have pain now. We will see.”
He was replaced in center by Denard Span, who moved over from right. Moments later, Span spookily crashed into the wall only feet from where Gomez hit it while trying to catch Shoppach’s shot. Span couldn’t hold on as he made contact and Shoppach wound up with a two-run double to put Cleveland ahead 4-0.
Gutierrez’s fourth homer—and first since May 27—off Hernandez gave the Indians a 5-0 lead in the second.
Only three Indians have started a season 14-2 or better. Jim Bagby was 14-2 in 1920, Johnny Allen 15-1 in 1937 and Perry 15-1 in ’74. … Wedge is thrilled to see the success Sabathia has enjoyed since being traded to Milwaukee, where he is 4-0 and pitched three consecutive complete games. “Good for him, man,” Wedge said. “With the exception of the opposition, I root for baseball players. He was part of the family here.” … Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he “hasn’t heard anything,” about OF Michael Cuddyer, out since June 28 with a strained left index finger. … The Indians have homered in 11 straight games.