MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Ron Gardenhire got used to seeing Jim Thome hit home runs at Target Field as a member of the Minnesota Twins.
Thome is still hitting homers at the Twins ballpark, but now he's wearing a Cleveland Indians jersey.
The slugger connected on No. 603 in his return to Minnesota, sending the Twins to their sixth straight defeat and 90th loss of the season, 7-6 on Friday night.
``No matter what team you're on, when he walks up to the plate you're always interested in watching him,' Gardenhire said. ``He got us tonight, but we've seen him get lots of people and he's gotten us before.'
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. Twins fans that braved the chilly weather also gave Thome a standing ovation after his home run.
``Getting a chance to come here and play here for the two years I did was very special,' Thome said. ``The crowd has always been great here. They really have. It's been a joy. A little different competing against them, but that's part of the game too.'
Unfortunately for the Twins this season, injuries have also been a part of the game.
Gardenhire announced before the game that Joe Mauer was likely done for the season after being diagnosed with pneumonia. Designated hitter Jason Kubel - who's missed 47 games this season - reinjured his left foot and left after the fourth.
``He's hurting. It doesn't look good for Kubel,' Gardenhire said.
Finally, Gardenhire announced after the game that Tsuyoshi Nishioka is being shut down for the season with a sore right oblique. Nishioka last played Sept. 9 and hit .226 after coming over from Japan and signing a three-year deal with the Twins in the offseason.
Thome's return and the bleak injury outlook overshadowed rookie Joe Benson's bid to hit for the cycle.
The left-fielder walked to the plate in the ninth needing a home run to become the 11th Twins player to hit for the cycle and first since Michael Cuddyer in 2009.
Benson ripped a line drive a line drive to deep right-center field off Indians closer Chris Perez, but the ball hit off the scoreboard and Benson had to settle for another double.
``I knew it wasn't going to get high enough,' said Benson, who finished 4 for 4. ``I just wanted to get on base, get a rally going. It felt good, it felt really good.'
Ben Revere had two hits and two RBIs and Trevor Plouffe drove in two runs.
Kevin Slowey (0-6), needed 90 pitches to get through four innings and lost his sixth-straight start, a career high.
``I don't know if I have the lexicon to tell you how disappointed I am with the way I threw today,' Slowey said. ``I really am disappointed in how I've thrown all season.'
NOTES: 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 Twins have only lost 90 games 10 times in club history. Their last 90-loss season came in 2000. ... Minnesota sends 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. ... The Twins have six different losing streaks of six or more games this season.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved