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CLEVELAND (AP) –Asdrubal Cabrera’s 20th homer put him in rare company in Cleveland Indians history. More importantly for him, it helped his team keep pace in the AL Central.
Cabrera hit a three-run homer and Josh Tomlin pitched shutout ball into the seventh inning, leading Cleveland to a 3-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Saturday night.
The Indians remained three games behind division-leading Detroit, which rallied for a 6-5 victory at Baltimore.
“We have an opportunity here and I want to play hard and just win,” Cabrera said. “We are playing good baseball, getting good pitching and I want everybody to feel we’re there.”
Cabrera joined Woodie Held and Jhonny Peralta as the only Indians shortstops with 20-homer seasons. He entered this year with 18 in his career. Held and Peralta both hit 20-plus homers three times.
“Cabby was our offensive hero again,” manager Manny Acta said. “He’s done it for us pretty much all year.”
Tomlin (12-5) combined with four relievers for a five-hitter, helping Cleveland to its fourth win in five games.
Twins designated hitter Jim Thome went 0 for 3 with a walk and remained two shy of 600 career homers as Minnesota lost for the 11th time in 13 games.
Chris Perez, who pitched a perfect ninth for his 25th save in 28 chances, said Cleveland is pushing for a possible run to retake the lead from the Tigers.
“This is how we played in April,” Perez said. “We’re getting the lead, the starters keep us close and then the bullpen does its thing.”
The Indians used an eight-game winning streak to start the year 8-2 and by May 23 had a seven-game lead in the division. Injuries started to mount and Cleveland dropped out of first during a 1-7 stretch from July 19-29.
By taking the first two of three games against Minnesota after winning two of three from the Tigers, Cleveland has won consecutive series for the first time since winning three sets in a row over Arizona, Cincinnati and the New York Yankees from June 27 to July 6.
“Let’s try to finish the deal tomorrow,” Acta said, hopeful of a three-game sweep before going to Chicago for three games against the White Sox followed by a key three-game set in Detroit.
Cabrera connected in the third, driving a 1-0 pitch from Brian Duensing (8-11) over the wall in left after Shin-Soo Choo hit a leadoff single and Jason Donald walked.
Tomlin moved to 1-1 in five starts since losing 7-5 at Minnesota on July 20. The right-hander was charged with one run and four hits in 6 1-3 innings, leaving with Twins on first and second after issuing his only walk, to Thome.
Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire was impressed with Tomlin, who has worked at least five innings in all 36 of his career starts.
“I think you saw him working ahead for the most part,” Gardenhire said. “He has a nice little sinker, he pitches to contact and changes speeds. I think add and subtract is what he does best.”
Joe Smith came in and got Danny Valencia on a short fly to right-center before Delmon Young blooped an RBI single to right, scoring Justin Morneau from second to make it 3-1. Rafael Perez then struck out Tsuyoshi Nishioka to strand two runners.
Tony Sipp worked a perfect eighth to get the ball to Perez.
“The bullpen has been working that way all season,” Tomlin said. “Everybody is doing the job. We all want to start a stretch of wins. This is a race and everybody wants it.”
Duensing fell to 3-1 in four career starts against Cleveland. The left-hander gave up three runs and nine hits in 6 2-3 innings, striking out a career-high nine. He dropped to 1-4 overall in five starts since July 22.
NOTES: Twins OF Denard Span broke an 0-for-27 slide with a sixth-inning single. … Indians OF Michael Brantley did not take batting practice due to a sore right wrist that may sideline him at least through Tuesday, according to Acta. “They’ve done an MRI and everything and it’s nothing that serious according to the doctor,” Acta said. “But it still kind of bothers him when he swings.” A trip to the disabled list is possible if Brantley does not improve. … Twins 2B Alexi Casilla went back on the disabled list after aggravating his right hamstring running to first base Friday, when he was activated. Minnesota will recall INF Trevor Plouffe from Triple-A Rochester on Sunday to take his place. … Twins OF Michael Cuddyer remains day to day after straining his neck in early batting practice Friday. … Twins RHP Kevin Slowey will make his first start of 2011 on Sunday. Cleveland is expected to recall LHP David Huff from Triple-A Columbus to oppose him. Slowey, 13-6 a year ago as a starter, worked in relief for Minnesota six times this season before being sidelined with an abdominal strain May 20. He was activated July 21 and sent to Rochester, where he was 1-2 with a 3.55 ERA in seven starts. Huff has been up and down in 2011, going 1-1 with a 0.51 ERA in three starts for the Indians and 9-3 with a 3.87 ERA at Columbus.
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