Morales shines as Twins sweep Indians
A division title secured, the Minnesota Twins aren't letting up.
The Twins rested most of their regulars and beat the Cleveland Indians 5-1 Wednesday behind the pitching of Nick Blackburn to complete a three-game sweep.
Minnesota, which clinched its sixth AL Central title in nine years late Tuesday, started the day one game behind the Yankees for best home record in the league.
''With home-field advantage still at stake, these guys are going to play,'' manager Ron Gardenhire said. ''It doesn't matter who I put out there, you're going to get a great effort. That's the way is around here. ... I expect that of all of them, and I think they expect that of themselves.''
Blackburn (10-10) became the sixth Minnesota pitcher to reach double digits in victories, allowing one run and five hits in seven innings.
Jose Morales drove in three runs and Alexei Casilla had three hits for Minnesota, which has won nine of 11 and improved its record at new Target Field to 52-25. The Twins have sold out 74 straight home games and set a season home attendance record with 3,063,327, topping their 1988 mark.
Carlos Carrasco (1-1) allowed three runs and six hits in six innings for Cleveland, which lost its 90th game.
Gardenhire said Francisco Liriano will get the start when Minnesota opens the AL playoffs next month.
''He's been winging it pretty good,'' Gardenhire said.
Liriano's 14-8 with a 3.44 ERA in 29 starts, including 6-1 in his past 10. The left-hander will have six days rest between his final regular season and first playoff starts.
Carl Pavano's scheduled to pitch Game 2, followed by Brian Duensing. Blackburn will be the fourth starter if the Twins use a four-man rotation.
''I'm not going to be mad if I don't make the rotation, I'll just be disappointed in what led up to me not being there,'' said Blackburn, who retired his last 13 batters, getting his final one when he stopped Chris Gimenez's grounder with a foot and threw to first.
''To be able to come back and throw the ball the way I am right now is definitely big for me, a good confidence builder. It kind of reminds me that I can be successful at this level and get guys out,'' he said.
Blackburn was 1-6 with a 10.05 ERA in 10 games before his July 30 demotion. He's pitched at least seven innings in six straight starts since being recalled from Triple-A, allowing 10 earned runs in 45 2/3 innings. Opponents are hitting .213 against him in that stretch.
''In the first place, you have to pitch with confidence, and he's doing that,'' Gardenhire said. ''His changeup came back to him and he used it a lot when he was down there. That gave him a good feel.''
Blackburn gave up all five of his hits in the first two innings, including Shelley Duncan's RBI single in the first. He struck out Jayson Nix with two on in the first, and Drew Sutton hit into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the second.
''The whole story in the series was basically that we struggled offensively to push runners across the plate and give our guys some breathing room,'' Indians manager Manny Acta said. ''We didn't do that and they showed why they won the division.''
Minnesota went ahead in a three-run sixth on RBI doubles by Morales and Matt Tolbert, followed by Ben Revere's run-scoring single off Carrasco. Morales added a two-run single in the seventh off Aaron Laffey.
''I tried to be a little bit more perfect. When I do that, everything is up,'' Carrasco said.
Morales played first base for the first time in his major or minor league career and looked as though he'd been there for a long time when he made two diving stops.
''They were hard hit,'' he said, grinning wide. ''There was just no time to think, I just had to react.''
Notes: Revere got his first start in left field for Minnesota. ... Cleveland SS Asdrubal Cabrera pinch-ran in the eighth inning for Cleveland. He missed Tuesday's game because of a strained left wrist. ... Four of Tolbert's last five hits have been for extra bases.