With one eighth-inning swing, he smacked a straight-down-the-middle fastball into the football seats behind center field — giving Minnesota a big lift when it was needed most.
Cuddyer’s tying three-run homer rescued the Twins, ruining a fine start for Cleveland by Jeremy Sowers in a 6-3 victory over the Indians on Monday night after Minnesota learned All-Star first baseman Justin Morneau’s season is over because of a back injury.
“It’s not the time to mourn it,” Cuddyer said. “We can’t say we’re done because we lost him. We’ve got to keep plugging away, and he’s going to be here cheering us on as hard as anybody.”
Sowers stymied the Twins with his jerky left-handed delivery and left with a 3-0 lead after seven innings. Reliever Tony Sipp let the first two batters reach base in the eighth, though, the first coming on an error by shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera.
Indians manager Eric Wedge summoned the right-handed Chris Perez to face Cuddyer, who flipped his bat with a flick of the wrist as he strided toward first and handed out several hard high-fives on his approach to the plate and return to the dugout.
This came a few minutes after the out-of-town scoreboard revealed first-place Detroit’s completion of a comeback from a 5-2 bottom-of-the-ninth deficit to beat Toronto. The Twins remained 5½ games behind in the AL Central.
“It’s fun to see those guys keep battling. That’s kind of how this team is,” said Morneau, who was diagnosed with a stress fracture and must rest for three months.
Perez (0-1) is no batting practice pitcher. He struck out 30 with only 10 hits and two runs allowed over his previous 23 innings. After Cuddyer’s homer, however, he collapsed.
Two singles. A wild pitch that let the go-ahead run score. Then a two-run shot into the upper deck by pinch-hitter Jason Kubel.
“I got too much of the plate. That was the problem,” said Perez, who sat by himself and stared into his cubicle in Cleveland’s clubhouse for about five minutes before turning to take questions from reporters.
Sowers gave up six hits and threw 104 pitches. Wedge defended his decision to turn the game over to his top two setup men.
“I feel like we made some young mistakes out there on the mound,” the manager said. “We paid for it. Those two young men have done a fantastic job, and they’ve come a long way in a short period of time this year. As tough as it is for them right now, they’ve got something they can learn from. They’re going to be in that situation time and time again, and they should be better for it.”
Carl Pavano, pitching against the Indians for the first time since they traded him to the Twins last month, was in command for six innings except for two balls his old teammates crushed. Trevor Crowe hit his first career homer, a two-run shot in the third, and Shin-Soo Choo went deep in the next inning.
Wedge was asked before the game about Choo’s second-half power slump, and he expressed no concern about it because of the way he believes Choo has stayed disciplined — sidestepping temptation to swing for homers and potentially throw his approach out of whack.
Choo, in his first full season as a regular in the majors, has kept his average near .300 all summer. The right fielder from South Korea has 16 homers, but only three since July 7. Choo also went deep on Saturday against Kansas City.
The late rally made that moot. Jesse Crain and Ron Mahay (2-1) worked scoreless innings in relief, and Joe Nathan notched his 39th save — another not-so-smooth ninth inning featuring a single and a walk with two outs.
Nobody was worried about that, though. Morneau’s absence and the effect on the race were the postgame focus.
“You can’t do anything about it,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We still have a job to do.”
- The Twins lead the league with 135 double plays grounded into.
- Concerned about some sloppiness he’s seen recently in his young club, Wedge addressed the team in a 10-minute meeting before batting practice.
- Mauer (27), Cuddyer (25), and Kubel (23) have each established career highs in homers this year.
- Who: Cleveland at Minnesota
- Time: 8:10
- Where: Metrodome, Minneapolis
- Pitchers: Carmona (3-10, 6.48 ERA) vs. Baker (13-8, 4.33)
- TV/radio: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM