Cuddyer leads Twins to sweep, keeps Twins in division race
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Michael Cuddyer is a bit surprised the Minnesota Twins have overcome so much and are still in the pennant race.
He's a big reason why.
Cuddyer homered, doubled and drove in three runs Wednesday and the Twins beat the Cleveland Indians 7-3 for a three-game sweep.
Joe Mauer singled twice, raising his major league-leading average to .374, and drove in two runs as the Twins won their fourth in a row.
Just two games over .500, Minnesota began the day 4½ games behind Detroit in the AL Central. The Tigers were home Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon against Kansas City, then visit the Metrodome for a three-game set beginning Friday.
"The way we've played this year, it's amazing we still have a chance and it's sitting in front of us," said Cuddyer, who has replaced the injured Justin Morneau at first base, and is 8 for 16 in those four games. "At this point we need everybody to contribute. Even the guys that are hurt we need them to cheer us on."
It's been like that much of the year.
Mauer missed the first month of the season, and Minnesota's starting rotation has been in flux nearly all season, including the absence of Kevin Slowey since July 4.
"It's fun to watch. Matt Tolbert's getting out there and battling and covering ground at third base, (Orlando) Cabrera seems to always put some good swings on the ball, Nick Punto's been playing a lot better," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "(Denard) Span's been there and Cuddy and Mauer. ... The rest of them have to step up and do things, and that's what's been happening."
Now comes the first of seven remaining games with the Tigers.
"We get the first three here and we need to take advantage of that," outfielder Jason Kubel said.
Matt LaPorta homered and had three RBIs for Cleveland, which has lost four straight and 13 of 16.
Nick Blackburn (10-11) allowed two earned runs and eight hits in 6 1-3 innings for his second win in 12 starts since the All-Star break. He lowered his second-half ERA from 7.36 to 6.90.
Joe Nathan struck out the final two batters for his 41st save in 46 chances.
Cuddyer homered leading off the fifth and added an RBI double in the seventh. The home run was the second in three games for Cuddyer, who hit a three-run shot to lead Monday's 6-3 comeback win.
Blackburn came up with his third solid start in four outings. Blackburn retired the Indians in order three times in the first four innings, and got out of a two-on, no-out jam in the fifth when Kelly Shoppach grounded into a double play and Trevor Crowe grounded out.
"He threw more curveballs in the first two or three innings than he did in his entire last start, although he was still up in the zone too much," Gardenhire said.
For the second straight start, Aaron Laffey (7-6) gave up six earned runs and a career-high 12 hits. His own mistake put him behind.
With two outs in the third, Laffey dropped a soft toss covering first base for an error. Cuddyer followed with an RBI single for a 1-0 lead.
Laffey walked No. 9 hitter Punto with two outs in the fourth. Span followed with an RBI single, and Mauer had a two-run single two batters later for a 4-0 lead.
"I didn't feel like we played well at all behind him," Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said. "We made some poor decisions on cutoffs, decisions where we could have taken the out that would have saved us two or three runs easy."
E Mauer has established a career-high with 87 RBIs.
- This was Minnesota's seventh series sweep of the year.
- Cleveland is a season-worst 23 games under .500.