Choo to rescue as Indians sneak past Twins

Choo to rescue as Indians sneak past Twins

Choo to rescue as Indians sneak past Twins
MINNEAPOLIS -- Shin-Soo Choo saved the day with a go-ahead RBI single in the ninth inning as the Indians posted a 5-4 win over the Twins on Monday in the series opener at Target Field.

Choo, making his debut in the leadoff position, hit a soft liner to right-center field after working the count full on Twins reliever Matt Capps. Choo finished the game 1-for-4 with a hit-by-pitch.

"I didn't make the lineup thinking Choo was going to come up with two outs in the ninth and a runner on base," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "He's a good hitter and I'm glad that he was the one up there. That was a huge hit. A two-out game-winning hit. He's coming around and he's one of those guys that we need to get going for our offense, and tonight was a big hit."

Indians starter Jeanmar Gomez handcuffed a struggling Twins lineup for seven innings, but the Tribe's bullpen surrendered a 4-1 lead with a three eighth-inning runs.

"Gomez did a very good job," Acta said. "He went out there and threw strikes with good life on his fastball. He got a lot of ground balls -- actually 11 groundouts. He did a good job, especially against the left-handed hitters that he saw tonight. I feel bad for him. I'm glad we were able to come back, but he should have gotten a win out of that."

Chris Perez pitched a scoreless ninth for his Major League-leading 12th save. Joe Smith (3-1) picked up the win in relief as the Tribe snapped a three-game losing streak.

"We lost three games against Boston, so we knew we needed a win," Choo said. "The first thing is to stop the losing streak so everybody feels good [Tuesday]."

The Twins struck first in the top of the third inning. With one out and Denard Span at the plate with runners on first and second, Indians catcher Carlos Santana allowed a passed ball that didn't trickle far from his reach. Mastroianni broke for third and went on to score when Santana's throw sailed into left field.

But the Indians took the lead in the bottom half of the inning. Jason Kipnis singled off Twins starter Carl Pavano and Asdrubal Cabrera followed with ground-rule double to left. Travis Hafner drove in a run with a groundout and Santana plated Cabrera with a sacrifice fly for a 2-1 advantage.

Casey Kotchman stretched Cleveland's lead to 4-1 with a two-run home run in the fifth inning, his third homer of the season and first since April 15.

Gomez escaped a fifth-inning jam when he got Joe Mauer to ground out to second base to strand runners at second and third. Gomez allowed just three hits with three walks and two strikeouts in a no-decision.

"For me, one point that was important was attacking the zone," Gomez said. "[I wanted to] throw down in the zone, make quality pitches and be aggressive with the hitter. ... [Getting the win] didn't have to happen for me to do my job today."

Vinnie Pestano, who relieved Gomez in the eighth, walked Span, who stole second and scored on Josh Willingham's two-out double to left. Indians lefty Nick Hagadone entered and gave up a two-run shot to Ryan Doumit to tie the game at 4.

Acta defended his late-inning bullpen duo after the game, saying he'd stick with Pestano as the setup man.

"Vinnie has been struggling a little bit against left-handed hitters and the splits are very big," the skipper said. "We're trying to get him through it and we gave him two [opportunities against lefties] there. He's just scuffling a little bit against the lefties."

Pestano said it was supposed to be a fastball away to Willingham, but it got too much of the plate.

"When you make mistakes in 2-0 counts you usually get punished for it," Pestano said.

"The splits on Doumit are better from the left side," Acta said on his decision to summon Hagadone to face Doumit. "Nick has thrown the ball really good; we wanted to turn [Doumit] around and he fell behind [in the count] and Doumit got him. Those guys have been very good for us, but here and there they're going to have a tough time."

Cleveland had an opportunity to add to its lead in the eighth, when reliever Francisco Liriano walked the bases loaded with two out. But Michael Brantley struck out to end the frame.

The Twins stormed back the next half inning with three runs, before Choo's late-game heroics off Capps.

"The last pitch to Choo just ran back over the middle of the plate," Capps said. "I made a nice pitch just two pitches before that kind of froze him and so I tried to throw that same pitch, but it kind of leaked over a little bit and ran back over the middle of the plate."

Derek Wetmore is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.