MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Chris Perez dreamed of this scenario many times while living with Danny Valencia at the University of Miami.
Bottom of the ninth. Bases loaded. Game on the line. Perez on the mound and Valencia in the box.
The outcome wasn't quite what he had in mind.
Valencia hit a two-run single off Perez in the ninth inning, sending the Minnesota Twins to a 2-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday night.
Perez's pitch on the inside corner broke Valencia's bat, but the third baseman had just enough on it to bloop it into left field, scoring Joe Mauer and Michael Cuddyer, and giving the Twins a much-needed bounceback victory.
``Of course,' said Perez, who lived with Valencia for two years in college and has known him since they were 17-year-old high schoolers in South Florida. ``At least I got the bat. You 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.'
The Indians were looking to take an eight-game lead over the fourth-place Twins in the AL Central when Perez (2-5), the All-Star closer with 22 saves in 23 chances, took the mound.
But the right-hander was a little off from the start, walking Mauer with one out and giving up a bloop hit that Cuddyer stretched into a double. Jim Thome was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Valencia came to the plate for the long-awaited showdown.
``I thought I made some good pitches to Mauer,' Perez said. ``One of the four that he called balls, are strikes to 90 percent of the league. But that's baseball, too. So, I didn't make pitches when I needed to.'
Valencia was in Perez's wedding, and said he was waiting for a slider.
``I'm sure he wants to throw a slider because he's always said that's what he's going to strike me out with,' Valencia said. ``Luckily enough he couldn't get ahead and he gave me a pitch I could hit good enough to get to the outfield and it fell in there.'
It was huge emotional lift for Minnesota, which was swept in a day-night doubleheader to start the series on Monday.
``He's a guy who's been pretty much money for us since last year, especially in one-run situations,' Indians manager Manny Acta said. ``So, they just got to him with those couple of well-placed singles.'
Cleveland fell into a tie with Detroit for the division lead. The Tigers rallied to beat Oakland 8-3 at Comerica Park.
The Twins were dominated for most of Tuesday's game by Justin Masterson, who allowed four hits and struck out six in 7 2-3 innings. With a fastball that hit 97 mph and a heavy sinker that routinely was clocked between 93 and 94, the right-hander with the big, looping delivery mowed through Minnesota's struggling lineup.
He retired 13 straight hitters before running into trouble in the seventh when Mauer reached on an error and Cuddyer singled to put two on with nobody out. But the big righty fanned Thome and got Valencia to ground into an inning-ending double play to preserve the lead.
A scary moment happened in the fifth inning when a 91-mph fastball got away from Liriano and hit Travis Buck in the helmet. The ball smacked just above Buck's ear flap and ricocheted into the stands as a sellout crowd held its breath.
A dazed Buck sat down in the dirt, but was able to get up and walk off the field under his own power a few moments later.
``I hope he's OK,' Liriano said.
The Indians announced that Buck left with a head contusion and said there were no immediate signs or symptoms of a concussion.
Looking a little rattled, Liriano gave up a single to Ezequiel Carrera to load the bases with nobody out. But he wiggled out of the jam, only allowing a sacrifice fly to Asdrubal Cabrera.
Perez's night didn't figure to get any easier when he left the ballpark. He planned to spend the night at Valencia's place in Minneapolis.
``I will be tweeting a picture of me and him,' Valencia said. ``We're just going to be watching the highlight over and over again.'
Perez figured he at least deserved something out of the deal.
``He's buying dinner,' Perez said.
NOTES: Luis Valbuena came in to run for Buck and stayed in the game in LF, just the second time in his career he's played in the OF. The other came on Aug. 19, 2010, at Kansas City. Michael Brantley was sick, so Valbuena was an emergency fill-in. ... Acta said an MRI on OF Grady Sizemore's injured knee showed a bone bruise and nothing more. There is no timetable for his return, but the Indians figured to have a more specific plan for his recovery by the time they returned home on Thursday.
The Associated Press News Service
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