MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Jim Thome hit home run No. 603 in his return to Minnesota, and the Cleveland Indians beat the Twins 7-6 Friday night to keep the Detroit Tigers from clinching the AL Central title.
Thome homered in the ninth inning against Joe Nathan for a 7-4 lead, just Thome’s second home run since Cleveland reacquired him on Aug. 25. The 41-year-old spent his first 12 seasons with Cleveland and more than 1 1-2 years with the Twins.
His 22 home runs are the most at Target Field, now in its second season, and he has six of the eight-longest homers in the ballpark’s history.
The Twins showed a video tribute of Thome before his first at-bat and he was greeted with a standing ovation before flying out to the left-field warning track. Thome went 2 for 4 with a walk and two runs.
Detroit, which played at Oakland, would have clinched the division title with an Indians’ loss. Minnesota, which has dropped into last place, has lost six straight and 11 of 12. The Twins have scored just 21 runs in its their last 11 games.
Backed by a 5-0 lead, Ubaldo Jimenez (4-2) allowed three runs — none earned — and five hits in 6 1-3 innings. Obtained from Colorado at the trade deadline on July 31, he improved to 3-1 with a 2.78 ERA in his last five starts after going 1-1 with a 7.29 ERA in his first four outings for the Indians.
Minnesota had runners reach in each of the first five innings, but couldn’t score until an error by center fielder Grady Sizemore let two runs cross in the fifth.
Despite allowing a pair of runs in the ninth, Chris Perez got three outs in his 33rd save in 37 chances.
Carlos Santana hit his 24th homer, a solo drive in the second against Kevin Slowey, and Lonnie Chisenhall and Lou Marson each had two hits and pair of RBIs as Cleveland ended a three-game losing streak.
Slowey (0-6), winless since last Sept. 18, gave up five runs and seven hits in four innings.
NOTES: Minnesota DH Jason Kubel left with left foot pain after going 0 for 2. … The Twins activated LHP Francisco Liriano (left posterior shoulder strain) from the DL and he was available out of the bullpen. Manager Ron Gardenhire said he’d like to get Liriano an outing or two out of the bullpen and he could start one game of the doubleheader at Cleveland on Sept. 24 with a limited pitch count. … The Indians will send RHP Jeanmar Gomez (3-2, 3.95) to the mound Saturday. Gomez is 3-0 with a 1.56 ERA in his last three starts. … Minnesota counters with RHP Anthony Swarzak (3-6, 3.89). Swarzak has lost his last three decisions but has allowed just four earned runs over 14 innings in two September starts.
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)