Twins-Indians Preview

If 2011 is indeed Jim Thome’s final season in the major leagues,

he’s going out on a hot streak.

Thome leads the Cleveland Indians into a day-night doubleheader

with the Minnesota Twins on Saturday.

After the Indians announced Friday that they would erect a

statue of Thome at Progressive Field, the 41-year-old slugger went

3 for 4 with his 604th career homer and three RBIs. However,

Cleveland (78-78) needed a pinch-hit walkoff home run from Carlos

Santana to notch a 6-5 win and move back to .500.

“It takes a special player to do that on an emotional night when

he is honored,” manager Manny Acta said of Thome. “We wanted to

win it badly for him.”

The Indians reacquired Thome – their all-time home run leader

with 337 – in a trade with the Twins on Aug. 25, but he got off to

a bumpy start by hitting .176 with a homer and two RBIs in his

first 10 games.

Now, Thome is batting .433 (13 for 30) during an eight-game

hitting streak. Both homers and five of his seven RBIs over that

stretch have come against Minnesota.

“Just a magical night,” said Thome, whose 59 homers against the

Twins are his second-most against an opponent. “I didn’t know about

the statue. That’s surreal – as good as it gets. I’m speechless on

that one.”

Cleveland has won six straight from Minnesota after losing six

of nine to open the season series. It’s the Indians’ longest

winning streak in one season over the Twins since 2007.

Chris Parmalee had three hits including a homer and three RBIs

Friday for the Twins (66-96), who need to split their final six

games to avoid reaching 100 losses for the first time in 30

years.

Brian Duensing (9-14, 5.29 ERA) will take the ball and make his

first start in three weeks in Saturday’s opener for Minnesota.

The left-hander went 1-5 with an 8.91 ERA in seven starts from

Aug. 2-Sept. 3 before being banished to the bullpen. He’s 0-1 with

a 2.70 ERA in three relief appearances since then.

Duensing is 3-1 with a 3.27 ERA in nine career appearances –

four starts – versus Cleveland.

The Indians will counter with David Huff (2-6, 4.20), who tries

to snap a four-start losing streak.

The left-hander has posted a 7.11 ERA while dropping all four of

his outings since beating Oakland on Aug. 29. He was lit up for a

career-worst nine runs – five earned – in 2 2-3 innings of Monday’s

12-6 loss to Seattle.

Huff pitched seven scoreless innings to beat Minnesota 5-2 in

his season debut July 18, improving to 3-5 with a 5.52 ERA against

the Twins.

In the nightcap, Minnesota’s Scott Diamond (1-5, 4.81) is slated

to face the same opponent he faced in his major league debut,

giving up four runs and seven hits in 6 1-3 innings of the Twins’

6-3 home loss to Cleveland on July 18.

The left-hander matched career highs by giving up five runs and

10 hits in four innings of Monday’s 6-4 defeat to the New York

Yankees.

He’ll be opposed by Cleveland’s Mitch Talbot (2-6, 6.33), set to

make his first big-league appearance since July 8. The right-hander

hasn’t pitched for the Indians since being ripped for a season

high-tying eight runs and 11 hits in 5 1-3 innings of an 11-7 loss

to Toronto.

Talbot was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained

lower back during the All-Star break and sent to the minors once

his injury healed.

He’s 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in two career starts versus

Minnesota.