Twins score twice in 9th, rally past Indians 4-2

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CLEVELAND (AP)—Justin Morneau decided he needed to try something different if he was going to get a hit off Rafael Perez.

The former AL MVP, 1-for-8 in his career against the tough left-hander, hit an RBI double off Perez to spark a two-run ninth inning and the Minnesota Twins beat the Cleveland Indians 4-2 on Sunday to move within 2 1/2 games of first place in the AL Central.

Alexi Casilla started the rally with one out, lining a pitch from Perez (1-2) down the left-field line for a ground-rule double. After Mike Redmond struck out, Morneau doubled to left-center on a high slider, scoring Casilla for a 3-2 lead.

“He threw me the pitch I was looking for on 2-0, but I didn’t swing at it,” Morneau said. “He threw me the same pitch on 3-1. I pulled the trigger and took it the other way.”

Indians manager Eric Wedge didn’t consider walking Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP who is hitting .318 and leads the Twins with 16 homers and 76 RBIs this season.

“Perez is one of the best in the game against lefties and has handled Morneau pretty well,” Wedge said. He just made a bad pitch there.”

Morneau, who has just four of his 16 homers against lefties this season, hasn’t enjoyed facing Perez, a southpaw who relies on a sharp slider.

“He doesn’t give you anything straight,” Morneau said. “He’s one of the toughest guys late in a game.”

Jason Kubel singled home Morneau to make it 4-2.

Matt Guerrier (6-4) got three outs in the eighth for the win—with the help of a fine catch by center fielder Denard Span—and Joe Nathan pitched a perfect ninth for his 28th save in 30 chances.

Minnesota took two of three in the series to improve to 29-18 in the AL Central entering a four-game series at home against the first-place Chicago White Sox that starts Monday night.

The White Sox swept four straight by a combined score of 40-15 in Chicago the last time the teams met. The Twins are 26-14 since.

“It’s still July, but it’s a nice series,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. “After what happened the last time, we need to do better. We’re in a situation where we need to win some games from them.”

The Indians have lost 4-of-5 and are 13 games under .500.

Cleveland took a 1-0 lead in the second on a sacrifice fly by Sal Fasano.

Indians starter Jeremy Sowers had a perfect game through five innings, but Craig Monroe opened the sixth with a bloop double to right. Within minutes, the left-hander trailed, 2-1.

“That hit didn’t bother me as much as if it had been a broken-bat grounder going through,” Sowers said. “It was a big-league hitter being strong enough to muscle a ball out there where nobody can get to it. It happens.”

The Twins loaded the bases on a walk and bunt single, then scored their runs on a fielder’s choice grounder by Denard Span and groundout by Casilla.

“We had some good things happen with the ball not going 50 feet to get two runs,” Gardenhire said. “Someone in the dugout said, ‘That’s Twins baseball.’ “

Sowers, coming off his first win in more than a year July 19 at Seattle, gave up two runs and three hits over eight innings, striking out five.

Twins starter Nick Blackburn allowed one run and four hits over seven innings and left with a 2-1 lead. The rookie right-hander got his first career win against the Indians on April 19 and is 2-0 with a 1.31 ERA in three starts against them this year.

The Indians tied it at 2 in the eighth off reliever Dennys Reyes on a sacrifice fly by David Dellucci that was nearly an extra-base hit. Span raced over and made a lunging catch in left-center.

“I didn’t think there was any way that kid was going to catch that ball,” Wedge said.

Span wasn’t sure, either.

“I didn’t think I was going to get to it,” Span said. “At the last minute, I reached out. I didn’t really see it. I got lucky.”

Notes

Sizemore got his 25th stolen base to go with 25 homers, joining former Indians OFs Bobby Bonds (1979) and Joe Carter (1986-88) as the only Cleveland players to do it. … Twins LHP Craig Breslow, claimed off waivers from Cleveland on May 29, hasn’t allowed a run in 14 of his 16 appearances and held batters to a .148 (8-for-54) average for Minnesota. … The crowd of 31,562 pushed Cleveland’s home ticket sales past 2 million for the 14th time in team history. The Indians didn’t reach the milestone last season until Aug. 12.

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