The race to a .500 season got a bit easier for the Cleveland Indians who defeated Minnesota, 6-5 Friday night behind a game-winning home run from Carlos Santana to lead off the bottom of the ninth.
Santana, pinch hitting for Lou Marson to lead off the ninth, hit his 27th home run on the first pitch thrown by Matt Capps for the Indians’ sixth consecutive win over the Twins.
It was also a night the Tribe honored Jim Thome for becoming the eighth member of the 600-home run club.
Thome, who will have a statue in his honor in center field of Progressive Field on the spot where he hit the longest home run (511-feet) in the stadium’s history, then helped the Indians get it to a 5-5 tie going into the ninth with a run scoring double in the first and his 604th home run to score two more in the third against former Indian Carl Pavano.
Thome was a triple short of hitting for the cycle, hitting a double in the first, a home run in the third and an infield single in the fifth before grounding out in the seventh.
The win gives the Indians a 78-78 record with six games remaining starting with a day/night double header Saturday against the Twins.
Minnesota, which lost for the 12th time in 13 games after breaking an 11-game losing streak Thursday with a 3-2 win against Seattle, had a number of chances to break this one open but were denied by faulty situational hitting and the double play.
The Twins were unable to break a 4-4 tie in the fifth against Tribe starter Justin Masterson, who walked two and hit a batter to load the bases with no outs. But Masterson got Joe Benson to hit into a 1-2-3 double play. Masterson then walked Drew Butera to reload the bases before he gave way to Frank Herrmann, who got Ben Revere to pop out to end the threat.
Cleveland broke a 4-4 tie in the sixth when Lonnie Chsenhall led off with a double and scored when Matt LaPorta, who was 3-for-4 with two RBI, singled home Chisenhall. The Twins answered with a RBI double from Rene Tosoni with one out in the seventh against Rafael Perez, the third of six Cleveland pitchers.
Neither team was retired in order in a game delayed by rain at the start until Vinnie Pestano got the Twins in the eighth and Phil Dumatrait did the same to the Indians in the bottom of the eight. Chris Perez, (4-7) who got the Twins on three pop outs in the ninth, got the win while Capps (4-7) suffered the loss.
The Twins had three RBI from Chris Parmelee, who drove in two in the first with a single and hit his third home run of the year to lead off the third.
Cleveland moved to 9-6 this season against the Twins with its sixth straight win over the 2010 AL Central champions, who are in danger of losing 100 games for just the second time since the team moved from Washigton, D.C. to Minnesota in 1961.
The Twins, 60-96, were 60-102 in 1982.
The Indians, who opened the month of September by losing their first five home games, have now won back-to-back home games to improve to 3-7 this month at Progressive Field.
Cleveland, which began the season 14-2 at home including a 14-game win streak, is now 42-36 at Progressive Field. Cleveland is just 28-34 at home since that fast start which was the best in team history.