Hafner keys Indians to 7-5 win over Twins in 11 innings
MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Travis Hafner personified the designated hitter Tuesday night.
Franklin Gutierrez led off the inning with a walk from Julio DePaula (0-1). After a sacrifice bunt by Casey Blake and an intentional walk to Grady Sizemore, Asdrubal Cabrera hit an infield single off the glove of a diving Alexi Casilla to load the bases.
Hafner then hit a ball almost to the warning track in center field for the go-ahead run, and Victor Martinez added a run-scoring ground-rule double to make it 7-5.
“Those two guys in the middle, you felt their presence out there today,” said Cleveland manager Eric Wedge. Hafner and Martinez were a combined 4-for-9.
Hafner hit a two-run shot off Minnesota closer Joe Nathan to tie the game at 5 with two outs in the ninth inning, helping the Indians win for the 10th time in 11 games and increase their lead over Detroit in the AL Central to a season-high seven games.
“We’ve got a good group of guys here and we fight until the last out,” said Hafner, whose last five home runs have come against Minnesota. “We’ve had some good come-from-behind wins this year. It seems we’re playing pretty well right now.”
Cleveland has beaten Minnesota six straight times, and is 13-4 against the defending division champions this year. The rapidly fading Twins, 2-7 in their last nine, are now 11 1/2 games back in the division.
Minnesota’s Kevin Slowey gave up one earned run and five hits, striking out three in five innings. It was his first start after nearly two months at Triple-A Rochester, where his ERA was 1.93 in his last 10 starts.
“I think you saw more breaking balls, changeups and sliders. He got the ball down in the zone,” said Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire.
Four Minnesota relievers limited Cleveland to one run in three innings, before Nathan gave up a pair of runs in the ninth.
Justin Morneau, in a 2-for-16 slump entering the game, hit a three-run double in the third to deep center field off the glove of Sizemore for a 4-2 lead.
It was one of three extra-base hits allowed by rookie Aaron Laffey, who allowed five runs and six hits in four innings, the shortest outing of his five career starts.
“It was one of those days where every pitch I threw was the wrong one,” he said.
Luis Rodriguez had his first three-hit game of the year for Minnesota. Morneau also had three hits.
Slowey continued to get strong run support from his teammates, who hit just .211 in the first five games of the homestand and scored 11 runs. Slowey entered the game getting an average of 9.49 runs in support.
Early on it looked like he would need that again.
Hafner hit a first-inning homer almost 10 rows into the upper deck in right field. The 424-foot shot gave him 126 as a Cleveland designated hitter, passing Andre Thornton for the most in club history.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for him,” Hafner said. “He’s a great guy and one of the greatest Indians players of all-time.”
Kenny Lofton tripled with one out in the second and scored on a slow roller to third that Rodriguez bobbled for an error. But an RBI double by Jason Kubel got Minnesota within 2-1, before Morneau’s double.
Rodriguez had an RBI single in the fourth for the Twins, and Lofton had an RBI double off Matt Guerrier in the sixth to make it 5-3.
Cleveland loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh, but Ryan Garko flew out to right field.
Minnesota had a runner at second base in the 10th, but Joe Mauer, taking over for Mike Redmond with a 3-2 count, struck out swinging. Mauer, who had been out since Aug. 25 with a strained left hamstring, did some light jogging before the game but doesn’t expect to be ready to play until this weekend at the earliest.
On the 10th pitch of his at-bat, Redmond, pinch-hitting for starting catcher Chris Heintz, fouled a pitch straight back and fell to the ground holding an already injured left finger. Gardenhire said an MRI would be performed on the finger Wednesday.
“I couldn’t swing,” Redmond said. “It felt like my finger fell off. I’ve never felt anything like that before.”
Hafner has 13 career multihomer games. His last was Aug. 30, 2006 against Toronto. … Hafner’s last home run against another team was July 20 vs. Texas. … Cleveland is 15-4 since Aug. 15. … Slowey, who lowered his ERA from 5.84 to 5.36, has allowed 14 homers in eight starts, including 12 in his last six. … Minnesota CF Torii Hunter is hitless in his last 14 at-bats. He is 3-for-25 on the homestand.
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