Big eighth inning leads Twins to win

Big eighth inning leads Twins to win

MINNEAPOLIS -- Seeing Detroit's comeback win against Toronto on the out-of-town scoreboard, the Twins knew they needed a win of their own to keep pace with the first-place Tigers. But with Minnesota trailing Cleveland by three runs in the eighth inning Monday, it looked as if the Twins were set to drop a game in the standings and fall further behind in the American League Central.

Michael Cuddyer had other plans.

Cuddyer hit a three-run home run to center off Indians reliever Chris Perez in the eighth to knot the game, sparking a six-run eighth and propelling Minnesota to a 6-3 victory at the Metrodome.

"This is the point in time where you are scoreboard-watching," Cuddyer said. "When you see Detroit come back like that, and you see the situation we were in, we needed to come back."

The Twins did just that, and Cuddyer's blast started it all. It was a milestone home run for Cuddyer, as it marked the 100th of his career. He also set a new career high with 25 homers this season.

But he was the first to admit the personal accomplishment was trumped by the comeback victory.

"I definitely was aware of it, for sure," Cuddyer said. "It was a big home run more for the team than myself. It's a good milestone, and it's cool and all that, but to be able to have it in the situation that it came in was awesome."

Cuddyer and the Twins had to play Monday's game after hearing news that All-Star first baseman Justin Morneau would miss the remainder of the season with a stress fracture in his lower back. Cuddyer picked up the slack, playing first base and hitting in the cleanup spot in Morneau's absence.

"You're not excited about the news, by any means," Cuddyer said. "It's not the time to mourn that. You can't just say we're done because we lost him. We've got to keep plugging away. He's going to be here cheering us on as hard as anybody."

Morneau's teammates gave him plenty to cheer about in the eighth inning, as they went on to score three more runs following Cuddyer's game-tying homer.

Delmon Young kept the rally going with a single two batters later. Young advanced to third on a hit-and-run single by Matt Tolbert and later scored on a wild pitch by Perez (1-2) for the go-ahead run. Jason Kubel then hit a two-run pinch-hit homer to deep right to complete the six-run eighth and seal the 6-3 victory.

"Some big at-bats late in the ballgame," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "A really fun win. The guys were pretty pumped up and pretty excited."

"We were in a great position to win the ballgame," Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said. "We just gave it back to them."

The Twins found themselves in a 3-0 hole early, and it stayed that way into the eighth inning. Cleveland jumped on Minnesota starter Carl Pavano with home runs in the third and fourth innings. Trevor Crowe's two-run blast to right in the third -- his first career homer -- put the Indians up 2-0. Shin-Soo Choo then led off the fourth with a solo shot to push Cleveland's lead to 3-0.

"I didn't think I had that good of stuff," Pavano said. "I battled. These guys made some great plays. Obviously, I put us behind three runs."

But after Choo's homer in the fourth, Pavano would pitch three scoreless innings before exiting after the sixth, still trailing 3-0.

"Other than a couple of home runs, he threw the ball really well for us, gave us an opportunity," Gardenhire said.

For much of the game, Indians starter Jeremy Sowers stymied the Twins' offense, as he held Minnesota scoreless through seven innings. In his last start, which also came against the Twins, Sowers allowed just two runs through six innings in a winning effort.

"We really didn't do too much off Sowers," Gardenhire said. "He's tough on us. We knew that going in."

"You know what he does is he doesn't make many mistakes over the plate," Cuddyer said. "He did that again against us tonight."

Twins reliever Ron Mahay (2-1) pitched a scoreless eighth inning to pick up the win. Closer Joe Nathan allowed two base runners in the ninth, but retired Crowe to end the game and earn his 39th save of the season.

Catcher Joe Mauer went 3-for-3 to raise his Major League-leading batting average to .371. He singled in the first, third and sixth innings and walked in the eighth and scored on Cuddyer's three-run homer.

"Joe had a great night at the plate," Gardenhire said. "That's probably normally where it's going to start, with him getting on the base and going from there."

Tyler Mason is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.