|Minnesota (57-47) «||0||0||0||0||0||2||0||0||2||4||6||1|
The former AL MVP, 1-for-8 in his career against the tough left-hander, hit an RBI double off Perez to spark a two-run ninth inning and the Minnesota Twins beat the Cleveland Indians 4-2 on Sunday to move within 2½ games of first place in the AL Central.
Alexi Casilla started the rally with one out, lining a pitch from Perez (1-2) down the left-field line for a ground-rule double. After Mike Redmond struck out, Morneau doubled to left-center on a high slider, scoring Casilla for a 3-2 lead.
"He threw me the pitch I was looking for on 2-0, but I didn't swing at it," Morneau said. "He threw me the same pitch on 3-1. I pulled the trigger and took it the other way."
Indians manager Eric Wedge didn't consider walking Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP who is hitting .318 and leads the Twins with 16 homers and 76 RBI this season.
"Perez is one of the best in the game against lefties and has handled Morneau pretty well," Wedge said. "He just made a bad pitch there."
Morneau, who has just four of his 16 homers against lefties this season, hasn't enjoyed facing Perez, a southpaw who relies on a sharp slider.
"He doesn't give you anything straight," Morneau said. "He's one of the toughest guys late in a game."
Jason Kubel singled home Morneau to make it 4-2.
Minnesota took two of three in the series to improve to 29-18 in the AL Central entering a four-game series at home against the first-place Chicago White Sox that starts Monday night.
The White Sox swept four straight by a combined score of 40-15 in Chicago the last time the teams met. The Twins are 26-14 since.
"It's still July, but it's a nice series," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "After what happened the last time, we need to do better. We're in a situation where we need to win some games from them."
The Indians have lost 4-of-5 and are 13 games under .500.
Cleveland took a 1-0 lead in the second on a sacrifice fly by Sal Fasano.
"That hit didn't bother me as much as if it had been a broken-bat grounder going through," Sowers said. "It was a big-league hitter being strong enough to muscle a ball out there where nobody can get to it. It happens."
The Twins loaded the bases on a walk and bunt single, then scored their runs on a fielder's choice grounder by Span and a groundout by Casilla.
"We had some good things happen with the ball not going 50 feet to get two runs," Gardenhire said. "Someone in the dugout said, 'That's Twins baseball.' "
Sowers, coming off his first win in more than a year July 19 at Seattle, gave up two runs and three hits over eight innings, striking out five.
Twins starter Nick Blackburn allowed one run and four hits over seven innings and left with a 2-1 lead. The rookie right-hander got his first career win against the Indians on April 19 and is 2-0 with a 1.31 ERA in three starts against them this year.
"I didn't think there was any way that kid was going to catch that ball," Wedge said.
Span wasn't sure, either.
"I didn't think I was going to get to it," Span said. "At the last minute, I reached out. I didn't really see it. I got lucky."
|Justin Morneau is at the center of a big ninth inning for the Twins in Cleveland. (Getty Images)|
|Players of the Game|
|Denard Span, CF||4||0||0||1||0||0||0||.324|
|Alexi Casilla, 2B||4||1||1||1||0||0||0||.314|
|Mike Redmond, C||4||0||0||0||0||1||2||.269|
|Justin Morneau, 1B||4||1||1||1||0||1||0||.318|
|Delmon Young, LF||3||0||0||0||1||0||0||.295|
|Jason Kubel, RF||4||0||1||1||0||2||0||.263|
|Craig Monroe, DH||4||1||2||0||0||1||2||.206|
|Brendan Harris, 3B||2||1||0||0||1||1||0||.259|
|Nick Punto, SS||3||0||1||0||0||0||0||.289|
|2B - Alexi Casilla (15, R. Perez), Justin Morneau (25, R. Perez), Craig Monroe (9, Sowers)|
|RBI - Denard Span (9), Alexi Casilla (39), Justin Morneau (76), Jason Kubel (51)|
|2-OUT RBI - Justin Morneau (28), Jason Kubel (23)|
|CS - Craig Monroe (1, 2nd base by Sowers/Fasano)|
|Team LOB - 3|
|DP - Morneau-Punto|
|E - Justin Morneau (3, Misplayed grounder)|
|Matt Guerrier (BS,4; W,6-4)||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||3.27|
|Joe Nathan (S,28)||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||1.05|
|Pitches-Strikes - Nick Blackburn 99-69, Dennys Reyes 8-5, Matt Guerrier 11-9, Joe Nathan 9-7|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Nick Blackburn 7-11, Joe Nathan 1-1|
|Batters Faced - Nick Blackburn 26, Dennys Reyes 2, Matt Guerrier 3, Joe Nathan 3|
|Grady Sizemore, DH||3||0||2||0||1||1||0||.276|
|Franklin Gutierrez, CF||3||0||0||0||0||0||2||.217|
|a- David Dellucci, PH-LF||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||.224|
|Ben Francisco, LF-CF||4||0||0||0||0||1||3||.277|
|Jhonny Peralta, SS||4||0||0||0||0||0||3||.269|
|Shin-Soo Choo, RF||4||1||1||0||0||0||0||.257|
|Andy Marte, 3B||4||0||1||0||0||1||1||.192|
|Ryan Garko, 1B||4||0||1||0||0||2||3||.236|
|Sal Fasano, C||2||0||0||1||0||0||2||.273|
|Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B||3||1||1||0||0||0||1||.186|
|a-hit a sacrifice fly for Gutierrez in the 8th|
|SF - David Dellucci (4), Sal Fasano (1)|
|RBI - David Dellucci (34), Sal Fasano (2)|
|SB - Grady Sizemore (25, 2nd base off Blackburn/Redmond), Shin-Soo Choo (3, 2nd base off Blackburn/Redmond)|
|Team LOB - 5|
|Rafael Perez (L,1-2)||1||3||2||2||1||1||0||3.42|
|IBB - Young by Rafael Perez|
|Pitches-Strikes - Jeremy Sowers 101-70, Rafael Perez 25-14|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jeremy Sowers 9-9, Rafael Perez 2-0|
|Batters Faced - Jeremy Sowers 27, Rafael Perez 7|
|Attendance - 31562|
|Game Time - 2:42|
|Temperature - 79|
|Umpires - Home - Jeff Nelson, First Base - Adrian Johnson, Second Base - Tim Tschida, Third Base - Jim Joyce|