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Valencia Pushes Twins Past Indians Again

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(credit: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

(credit: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Danny Valencia thinks of himself as one of the big hitters in the Minnesota Twins lineup.

If he keeps coming up with clutch hits like he did against the Cleveland Indians, there will be no doubting his importance.

Valencia singled home the go-ahead run for the second straight day, this time in the eighth inning, and Minnesota beat Cleveland 7-5 in a sloppy game played on another sweltering day at Target Field.

“You know, hitting behind Jim Thome, obviously you know they are going to pitch around him to get to me,” Valencia said. “To be able to come into those situations and capitalize, and for our team to win is all I care about.”

Minnesota salvaged a split in the four-game series with the AL Central-leading Indians that was played in extreme heat and humidity. Temperatures were in the mid- to high-90s for each game.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire left the stadium during the game and was replaced by bench coach Scott Ullger. Gardenhire has been dealing with a viral infection and has had trouble dealing with the heat.

Matt Capps (3-5) earned the win in relief of Nick Blackburn, who gave up four runs — one earned — in six innings. Joe Nathan gave up a solo homer to Lonnie Chisenhall, but earned his sixth save.

Valencia, who won Tuesday night’s game with an RBI single in the ninth, lined a ball to right field, which just eluded the glove of second baseman Orlando Cabrera, to score Alexi Casilla, who had three hits, two runs and an RBI. Tsuyoshi Nishioka added a two-run single to cap the Twins’ rally.

“I like being in those situations,” Valencia said. “Anybody on this team wants to be in that position. Fortunately it’s been coming up in my hands and I’ve been able to take it and run with it, and come through. It was a huge team win. We needed this. We’re within striking distance of getting back on top of this division.”

Casilla had reached off Cleveland reliever Tony Sipp (4-2) after his long fly ball to the warning track fell between left fielder Luis Valbuena and center fielder Ezequiel Carrera. The ball bounced off the warning track and into the bullpen for a ground-rule double.

“Nobody called the ball,” Valbuena said. “I tried to catch, but I feel he’s right there next to me and I was scared I was going to run into him.”

Sipp allowed three runs on two hits and a walk in just a third of an inning. Indians starter Josh Tomlin pitched six innings, giving up four runs on eight hits.

The misplay between Valbuena — playing just his third major league game in the outfield — and Carrera was just one of several defensive miscues by both teams.

“If you have an everyday outfielder, I’m sure that it probably could have been caught,” Cleveland manager Manny Acta said about Casilla’s double. “But we know what we’re dealing with. Luis is playing out of position he played a lot of left field in Triple-A but it’s a different ballgame up here.”

Carrera and Valbuena were part of a depleted outfield for the Indians, who were missing center fielder Michael Brantley and Travis Buck.

Acta said Brantley — the team’s leadoff hitter — was diagnosed with heat exhaustion after playing in both games of Monday’s doubleheader and was still having stomach issues on Wednesday.

With the Twins leading 4-3 in the sixth, the Indians tied it on a passed ball by Twins catcher Drew Butera that allowed Travis Hafner to score from third.

Butera was catching with Joe Mauer playing first base for the second straight game. Mauer was given the choice of where to play by Gardenhire.

Mauer had two hits and is hitting .563 (9 for 16) as a first baseman. His defense at first has been sparkling and he scooped a short-hop throw by Casilla to end the seventh inning, stranding two runners in scoring position.

“He looks pretty good,” Ullger said. “He looks like he’s been there awhile. He’s just a natural athlete. I think he could probably play any position. He could probably play shortstop if he wanted to play shortstop. He’s just that kind of athlete.”

NOTES: Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson said RH Scott Baker felt “great” throwing his bullpen session and will come off the DL to start Saturday’s game against the Tigers. … Buck was still experiencing headaches before the game and was unavailable. Buck was hit in the head by a pitch from Francisco Liriano on Tuesday, but hasn’t shown signs of a concussion. Acta said Buck is not subject to the MLB concussion testing. … Valencia’s is now 10 for 18 with the bases-loaded in his career, with 22 RBIs. He also has 21 RBIs this season in the seventh inning or later, which is tied for fifth in the league.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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