Brian Buscher had a go-ahead RBI single in a two-run sixth inning and Jon Rauch (3-1) pitched 1 1-3 innings of scoreless relief, helping the Twins pull within 4½ games of the Tigers, who lost to Kansas City, 11-1.
Buscher scored twice and drove in a run and Orlando Cabrera had two hits — including a solo home run — as Minnesota won its third straight game.
Joe Nathan gave up a one-out solo home run to Matt LaPorta in the ninth inning and walked Trevor Crowe with two outs, but got Michael Brantley to fly out for his 40th save in 45 chances.
Nathan reached 40 saves for the third time in his career and for the first time since recording 43 saves in 2005.
Fausto Carmona (3-11) fell to 1-5 since he was recalled from Triple-A Columbus on July 31. He allowed five runs on nine hits and three walks in 5 1-3 innings.
Carmona, coming off a season-low outing in which he allowed five runs while only getting two outs to Texas on September 9, had some tough luck to start the decisive sixth inning.
Delmon Young’s leadoff chopper off the Metrodome turf stayed just high enough to tip off Jhonny Peralta’s glove and slowly rolled to the outfield for a double. Buscher followed with a single to bring Young home, and Buscher scored two batters later on Punto’s second RBI single of the night.
Punto also drove in Buscher in the fourth inning to cut what had been a 3-1 Indians lead to one run, and Cabrera’s solo home run leading off the fifth tied the score.
After Minnesota jumped ahead with consecutive singles from Denard Span, Cabrera and Joe Mauer to start the game, Cleveland took the lead with a three-run fourth inning off Twins starter Scott Baker — who entered the game 4-0 with a 0.93 ERA in four starts against the Indians in 2009. Peralta and LaPorta both singled home a run in the frame and Andy Marte added a sacrifice fly. But Baker would allow no more runs, striking out five in 5 1-3 innings.
Ron Mahay, Rauch, Jose Mijares and Matt Guerrier combined for 2 2-3 scoreless innings in relief.
- Twins first-baseman Justin Morneau is done for the season with a stress fracture in his back, third-baseman Joe Crede is likely out for the season with back problems, and recent call-up Justin Huber is day to day with a strained oblique. But Gardenhire said his desire to call up reinforcements was “squelched” by the front office. Gardenhire would like to see one of the organization’s top infielders promoted, but Luke Hughes and Trevor Plouffe are playing in the World Cup in Europe, while Danny Valencia and Brock Peterson are not on the 40-man roster.
- Baker finished with a 1.57 ERA against Cleveland in five starts this season.
- Carmona fell to 0-3 with a 7.91 ERA in four starts against the Twins in 2009.
- Who: Cleveland at Minnesota
- Time: 1:10 p.m.
- Where: Metrodome, Minneapolis
- Pitchers: Laffey (7-5, 3.79 ERA) vs. Blackburn (9-11, 4.39)
- TV/radio: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM