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Updated: September 16th, 2011 10:09pm
Twins Daily: Twins rally, but Thome's HR the difference in Tribe win

Twins Daily: Twins rally, but Thome's HR the difference in Tribe win

by Phil Mackey
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MINNEAPOLIS -- In his return to Target Field, Jim Thome reached base three times, including muscling a solo homer in the top of the ninth, helping to propel the Cleveland Indians to a 7-6 win over the Minnesota Twins on Friday night.

The skinny

The Twins showed some fight, and a few positive signs, but ultimately a five-run deficit -- and the bat of former teammate Thome -- was too much to overcome.

Thome's solo home run off Joe Nathan in the top of the ninth inning wound up as the decisive run when the Twins' rally in the bottom of the ninth came up just short.

"He got us tonight," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "But we've seen him get lots of people, and he's gotten us plenty of times before, so it's nice to see him back in town. But I still like to end up with a win and shake hands."

Carlos Santana jumped on Kevin Slowey with a solo homer in the second inning, and a run-scoring double play ball by Kosuke Fukudome scored Lonnie Chisenhall in the third inning to make it 2-0.

Cleveland then tallied three more runs in the top of the fourth on RBI hits by Chisenhall and Lou Marson to take a 5-0 advantage.

Slowey lasted just four innings, allowing five earned runs on seven hits. He struck out two, walked nobody and threw 90 pitches.

"Ninety pitches in four innings, that's a lot of pitches and a lot of in-and-out of the zone," Gardenhire said. "Mostly out of it. Too many pitches, and some mistakes where he got hit pretty hard."

The Twins battled back by scoring two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning when Rene Tosoni's fly ball to right-center glanced off the glove of center fielder Grady Sizemore.

Another RBI single by Chisenhall in the sixth stretched the margin back to four, but an RBI single by Ben Revere and a sac fly by Trevor Plouffe in the bottom of the seventh brought the Twins back within two at 6-4.

In the bottom half of the ninth, after Thome's blast made it 7-4, Joe Benson and Drew Butera each doubled with one out, but Benson was forced to hold up at third base after getting a bad read. He scored on Revere's groundout, and Trevor Plouffe drove in Butera with a single, cutting the lead to 7-6, but the rally ended there.

Cleveland starter Ubaldo Jimenez wound up going 6 1/3 innings allowing three runs (one earned) on five hits and three walks.

Turning point

With the Indians already leading 2-0, it was Thome who ignited the rally that broke the game open.

Thome drove a sinking liner to center off Slowey that Revere was unable to snag. Slowey retired the next two batters, then hit Shelley Duncan with a pitch to put runners on first and second with two outs.

Chisenhall drove home Thome with a single to center, and Marson followed with a two-RBI single to give Cleveland a 5-0 lead.

The action went back and forth from there, but a 5-0 deficit was too big of a hill to climb.

Numbers game

4: Hits for Benson, who singled, doubled twice and tripled. With that 4-for-4 performance, Benson is now hitting .310/.333/.552 since being called up. "When I first came up here everything was 100 miles per hour," Benson said, "and I'm just talking with the coaches, and Joe (Vavra) and Jerry (White), they just tell me to slow everything down -- (that) I have the talent, I have the bat speed, I have the skill -- just settle everything down and it translated into a good night."

Home runs for Thome since joining the Indians.

1: Throwing error by Plouffe, who bounced one low and wide while trying to turn a 4-6-3 double play.


"Thank god they didn't throw me any sliders."
-- Benson

Health report

• OF Jason Kubel left Friday night's game in the fifth inning due to left foot pain -- the same foot that has hobbled him most of the season. Kubel hinted strongly that this latest setback may end his season prematurely. "Shots took care of it for a while," Kubel said, "(but) all my at-bats just keep getting worse and worse."

• C Joe Mauer will miss the remainder of the season after being diagnosed with mild pneumonia.

• SS Tsuyoshi Nishioka will sit out the rest of the season as well due to lingering oblique soreness.

• LHP Francisco Liriano (shoulder) was available to pitch out of the bullpen Friday night. Gardenhire said Liriano could start in next week's doubleheader against the Indians, but he'd likely be limited to two or three innings due to pitch-count restrictions.

• 1B Justin Morneau (concussion) is currently dealing with a stomach illness and will not work out until at least Saturday. He also has yet to string together multiple symptom-free days in a row, and it looks more and more as if he may not play before the end of the season.

• RHP Scott Baker (elbow) will throw a bullpen Saturday and will be re-evaluated after that.

• 2B Alexi Casilla (hamstring) will work out with the team this weekend and run the bases, and the trainers will make a decision on him after the weekend.

On deck

The series continues on Saturday (12:10 p.m., 1500 ESPN) when right-hander Anthony Swarzak (3-6, 3.89) faces right-hander Jeanmar Gomez (3-2, 3.95).

Swarzak gave up four runs (three earned) on six hits in six innings in his lone start against the Indians on July 18. After running into trouble in his final two August outings, Swarzak has posted a 2.57 ERA with 10 strikeouts and only two walks over his last two starts.

Gomez faced the Twins in relief on April 24, allowing one earned run on three hits in three innings. Since rejoining Cleveland's rotation on Aug. 30, Gomez has allowed only three earned runs on 18 hits in 17 1/3 innings over three starts (1.56 ERA), striking out nine and walking four.

Coming up

• Sunday: vs. Cleveland, 1:10 p.m. LHP Scott Diamond (1-4, 3.94) vs. RHP Justin Masterson (11-10, 3.20)
• Monday: @ Yankees, 12:05 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano (8-12, 4.50) vs. RHP Freddy Garcia (11-7, 3.71)
• Tuesday: vs. Mariners, 7:10 p.m. RHP Liam Hendriks (0-2, 6.00) vs. LHP Jason Vargas (8-13, 4.38)

Phil Mackey is a columnist for He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd