MINNEAPOLIS — Travis Hafner hit two home runs and the go-ahead sacrifice fly in the 11th inning, leading the Cleveland Indians past the Minnesota Twins 7-5 on 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.
Rafael Betancourt (4-0) pitched two scoreless innings to get the win, and Joe Borowski worked a perfect 11th inning for his 40th save in 46 chances.
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.
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 11½ games back in the division.
Minnesota’s Kevin Slowey, the International League Pitcher of the Year, 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.
There he was asked to work, in part, on more effectively changing speeds, something he struggled to do during a seven-start stint with the Twins from June 1 to July 5.
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.
Luis Rodriguez had his first three-hit game of the year for Minnesota. Morneau also had three hits.
As in his previous stint with the parent club, 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.
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 C Joe Mauer, out since Aug. 25 with a strained left hamstring, entered the game in the 10th inning after Mike Redmond injured his hand during an at-bat. Redmond was pinch-hitting for starting C Chris Heintz.
• The Indians recalled LHP Juan Lara, IF Andy Marte and RHP Edward Mujica from Triple-A Buffalo.
• 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.
|Cleveland’s Kenny Lofton slides in safely.