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After Tribe Bullpen Fails To Hold Lead, Matt Laporta Ninth-Inning Jack Lifts Tribe Past Twins

Cleveland, OH (Sports Network) – Matt LaPorta hit the game-winning homer in the bottom of the ninth, as the Cleveland Indians snuck past the Minnesota Twins, 7-6, in the opener of a three-game series at Progressive Field.

Shin-Soo Choo and Shelley Duncan each had two RBI for the Indians, who have won five of seven. Asdrubal Cabrera had three hits, drove in a run, and scored a run.

Jeanmar Gomez, making his third start in the big leagues, was solid in 5 1/3 innings, giving up one run on four hits. He also struck out three and walked two. Chris Perez (1-2) got the win despite allowing two runs on three hits in the top of the ninth.

Alexi Casilla knocked in four runs for the Twins, who still trail the White Sox by 1 1/2 games in the AL Central. Chicago lost to the Orioles in 10 innings on Friday.

Francisco Liriano lasted just 4 2/3 frames, allowing four runs on seven hits. He also walked a season-high six batters and fanned six. Matt Guerrier (2-7) gave up the homer to LaPorta to suffer the loss.

Trailing by two, 6-4, the Twins came to bat in the top of the ninth against Perez, who gave up an infield single to J.J. Hardy before pinch-hitter Jim Thome came to the plate. Thome blasted Perez’s offering off the top of the wall in left-center field for a double. Minnesota argued that the ball cleared the yellow line for a homer, leading to a review. However, the umpires stuck to the call on the field.

“It was a home run,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “HD [high-definition] showed it plain as day. And the angle from the side showed it plain as day.”

Casilla erased the controversial call two batters later with a two-run single that tied the game.

Guerrier, who recorded the final two outs in the eighth, stayed on to pitch the home ninth. LaPorta stepped to the plate and smacked the second pitch he saw over the left-center field wall to give Cleveland the victory.

Liriano, who was riding a streak of 21 consecutive scoreless frames, gave up three runs in the first inning. Michael Brantley and Cabrera hit consecutive singles to get things started. Choo grounded into a fielder’s choice to put men on the corners for Duncan, who hit a two-run double down the right-field line. LaPorta walked and Jayson Nix singled to load the bases. Another run scored when Trevor Crowe grounded into a fielder’s choice.

“You’re hoping you can score three or four off him (Liriano) through seven innings,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “We had a good approach. We used the whole field.”

Cabrera’s RBI single in the second extended Cleveland’s margin to four. Minnesota, though, got the run back in the third on Joe Mauer’s sacrifice fly.

Gomez was pulled in the top of the sixth after putting men on first and second with one out. Justin Germano got Michael Cuddyer to ground into an inning- ending double play.

The Indians added a run in the home sixth to make it a 5-1 game. Brantley walked and crossed the plate on Choo’s double down the left-field line.

Minnesota scored twice in the seventh to cut the gap to two. Germano put men on first and second with one out before being replaced by Rafael Perez. After Denard Span struck out, Casilla hit a two-run double to left. Mauer grounded out to end the frame, but not before the Twins made it 5-3.

Jason Kubel’s solo homer in the top of the eighth cut the lead to 5-4. Cleveland, though, got the run back in the home half on Choo’s RBI double to right.

Minnesota and Cleveland have split 10 games this season…The Indians have recorded an extra base hit in 59 straight games dating back to June 2 at Detroit…Liriano was riding a four-start winning streak…Indians catcher Carlos Santana underwent successful left knee surgery on Friday at Cleveland Clinic. He will need four to six months to make a full recovery and is expected to be at full strength for the 2011 season…The Indians recalled Brantley from Triple-A Columbus and optioned pitcher Jensen Lewis to Columbus. In another minor move, the club claimed infielder/outfielder Drew Sutton off waivers from Cincinnati and assigned him to Columbus…Cleveland started a nine-game homestand on Friday…Minnesota has played terrific baseball over the past two-plus weeks, having amassed a 12-4 record since July 21…The Twins signed pitcher Alex Wimmers, their first-round draft choice.

Photographs by spatulated, Triple Tri, and chrischappelear used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.