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CLE@MIN: Twins walk-off on Valencia's single

MINNEAPOLIS -- Having known Indians closer Chris Perez for 10 years, including two years as roommates at the University of Miami, Twins third baseman Danny Valencia certainly knew what to expect when facing his good friend with the game on the line.

Valencia -- up with the bases loaded and one out, with the Twins trailing by a run -- was able to get ahead in the count after a strike and two balls, and knew Perez wouldn't go to his slider.

So Valencia did what he could with an inside fastball, and hit a broken-bat bloop single into left field to give the Twins a 2-1 win over the first-place Indians at Target Field on Tuesday night.

It was a moment Valencia said he's pictured for a long time, especially considering he struck out against Perez in his only other at-bat against him last season.

"All of the time -- except I always envision me hitting the home run, and he envisions striking me out," Valencia said. "But it's just huge, aside from me and Chris, because the team needed this. We lost two games yesterday, and we needed to at least win one."

And to add insult to injury, Valencia said Perez is staying the night at his house after the game, and had something special in mind to watch when he got home.

"We're just going to watch the highlight over and over again," Valencia said with a laugh.

Perez, for his part, said it was a good pitch, but Valencia was able to get it into shallow left field to score Joe Mauer and Michael Cuddyer to end the ballgame.

"At least I got the bat," Perez said. "He can't be too happy about that hit. He's happy because they won, but I'll take that swing every time. It just fell in there. I'm about ready to go over to his house, right now. He's buying dinner."

It was Mauer who started the rally with a one-out walk before advancing to third on a bloop double by Cuddyer. The Indians opted to walk Jim Thome to load the bases, but Valencia made the Tribe pay with his game-winning hit.

Cuddyer was able to score on the second bloop hit of the frame, as he was running on contact with Luis Valbuena playing left field for the second time in his career because Travis Buck left the game when he was hit by a pitch in the head in the fifth inning.

"Right when it was hit, I had to go -- and I went," Cuddyer said. "I made the decision, and if I got doubled up, I would've been the goat. That's just the way it would've been. Fortunately, that didn't happen."

The win helped the Twins avoid a third straight defeat to the Tribe in just two days, after being swept in a doubleheader on Monday. Minnesota now trails Cleveland by six games in the American League Central.

"It's a win, and we lost the first two, so this was a huge game tonight," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We haven't had a lot of offense, and you have to credit their pitching staff, too. There's a reason that team is in first place."

It came on a night when left-hander Francisco Liriano was effectively wild -- walking four and plunking another, while striking out five and allowing just four hits and a run over six frames.

"I was throwing the ball down, and wasn't missing up," Liriano said. "It's a good thing when you're missing down and not up. So I walked a couple guys trying to overthrow and trying to be too perfect. That's one thing I've been doing wrong."

He allowed the one run in the fifth inning, when Lou Marson singled, Buck was hit in the helmet by a pitch and Ezequiel Carrera singled to load the bases. Asdrubal Cabrera provided the run with a sacrifice fly into right field for the second out, before Liriano was able to get out of the inning by getting Carlos Santana on a popup to second base.

"I made some good pitches when I needed to tonight," Liriano said. "I was trying to keep the ball down, and not overdo things."

But with Liriano on the mound, the Twins couldn't get anything going against right-hander Justin Masterson, who overpowered them with his four-seam and two-seam fastballs, as he only mixed in one slider in his 104 pitches.

The hard-throwing right-hander surrendered just four hits over 7 2/3 scoreless innings, while walking none and striking out six. He also recorded 15 outs via groundballs, including an inning-ending double play in the seventh.

He only ran into trouble in that seventh frame, as Mauer reached on an error and Cuddyer singled, before Thome struck out and Valencia grounded into a double play.

Masterson was removed in the eighth inning after striking out pinch-hitter Trevor Plouffe for the second out after Alexi Casilla reached on a one-out infield single. Left-hander Tony Sipp came in and got Ben Revere to fly out to right field for the final out of the inning.

"I'm happy he came out of the game," Valencia said of Masterson. "He could've easily have gone nine innings. He didn't throw that many pitches. He does a great job of keeping the ball down. He only threw fastballs for the majority of the game, just sinker after sinker. But that pitch alone is a plus-plus pitch, and gave us fits the entire day. So we were happy to see him go. We were able to get some guys on, and it was great to be in that situation to win this game."

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