LaPorta’s 9th-inning homer gives Indians win

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CLEVELAND (AP)—Matt LaPorta(notes) left no doubt about his game-winning home run for Cleveland.

Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire still has plenty of doubt—and an ejection to go with it—after losing a protest over a long ball by Jim Thome(notes) in the top of the ninth inning that was ruled a double.

LaPorta homered leading off the bottom of the ninth to give the Indians a 7-6 victory over Minnesota on Friday night—after Thome had an apparent homer taken away by the umpires even after a replay review.

“That was a good feeling,” LaPorta said after being mobbed by teammates at home plate following his shot into the left-field bleachers. “I’ve never hit a walkoff. I can’t remember doing it.”

LaPorta hit his sixth homer off Matt Guerrier(notes) (2-7) after the Twins had tied it in the top half on a two-run single by Alexei Casilla off closer Chris Perez(notes) (1-2). Casilla had a career-high four RBIs.

The game-tying hit off Perez, who had not allowed a run over 15 outings since June 28, came after Thome’s pinch-hit drive was ruled a double. The umpires used replay to uphold their call, further upsetting Gardenhire. Some television angles showed the ball hitting a railing above the yellow home-run line atop the wall in left-center.

“Did you see it in HD?” Gardenhire said. “It’s a home run. HD showed it plain as day. The angle from the side showed it plain as day, off the railing. Go ask the cook (in the Twins clubhouse). He can tell you and he’s from Cleveland.”

Perez was seeking his ninth consecutive save and 14th in 17 chances.

“I’d rather get a save, but LaPorta picked me up,” Perez said. “I made a mistake to Thome and thought it was gone.”

The right-hander stayed loose by tossing a few pitches during the 3-minute replay delay.

“In my mind, I thought it was going to be a home run,” he said. “So then I give up the single and it’s tied anyway. The big thing is I got out of the inning.

“I’d take the same approach again. I’ve been going good for a month-and-a-half. I just made a couple mistakes.”

Asdrubal Cabrera(notes) and Jayson Nix(notes) both had three hits for Cleveland, which handed the Twins their fourth loss in 16 games. Minnesota remained 1 1/2 games behind first-place Chicago in the AL Central.

Shelley Duncan(notes) had a two-run double in Cleveland’s three-run first inning off Francisco Liriano(notes), breaking the left-hander’s 21-inning scoreless streak. Duncan scored when Trevor Crowe(notes) grounded into a forceout.

Liriano tied a career-high with six walks, making 109 pitches over 4 2-3 innings as his four-game win streak was snapped. He struck out six and allowed seven hits and four runs.

Cabrera’s RBI single made it 4-0 in the second. Cleveland then got runners to second and third, but Liriano had three straight strikeouts to get out of the jam.

Joe Mauer’s(notes) sacrifice fly got the Twins to 4-1 in the third.

Indians starter Jeanmar Gomez(notes) gave up one run over 5 1-3 innings. He left after walking Mauer and yielding a one-out single to Jason Kubel(notes). Justin Germano(notes) quickly ended the threat by getting Michael Cuddyer(notes) to bounce into a double play.

Michael Brantley(notes), recalled from Triple-A Columbus before the game, walked to open the Indians’ sixth and scored on a one-out double by Shin-Soo Choo(notes) to make it 5-1.

Casilla’s two-run double off Rafael Perez(notes) got Minnesota within 5-3 in the seventh. Both runs were unearned after a throwing error by third baseman Nix.

Kubel’s 14th homer in the eighth off Joe Smith(notes) made it 5-4.

Cabrera doubled and scored on a ground-rule double by Choo in the eighth. An over-zealous scoreboard operator triggered the fireworks that signal an Indians home run at Progressive Field. Maybe it rattled Choo, too. He was picked off second by Guerrier before the right-hander made another pitch.

Mauer, used at DH for the fourth straight game because of shoulder problems, went 0 for 3, but has hit .516 (17 for 33) with 15 RBIs in his last nine games.

NOTES: Minnesota signed its No. 1 draft pick, RHP Alex Wimmers, to a $1,332,000 bonus and sent him to Class A Fort Myers (Fla.). … Cleveland signed its 11th-round pick, SS Hunter Jones(notes) from Lakewood (Calif.) High School. He is the son of former major leaguer Tracy Jones. … Indians rookie C Carlos Santana(notes) had left knee surgery. The team expects him to be ready for 2011. … Gardenhire said 1B Justin Morneau(notes), out since July 16 with a concussion, told doctors he is feeling better and may start a rehab assignment soon.

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