Indians win third straight

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Almost three hours after Bob Wickman squatted to catch the ceremonial first pitch, he threw the last one to silence Minnesota.

Wickman stranded the tying run at third base in the ninth inning and sent the Cleveland Indians to a 2-1 win over the Twins in a peaceful series opener between the bitter AL Central rivals on Monday night.

The Indians, starting a 13-game stretch in which they'll face either Minnesota or first-place Chicago 10 times, have won three straight and are inching closer to .500.

"This was another big win," Wickman said. "We're all chasing the White Sox. But we need to get to .500 first."

Before the teams renewed their heated rivalry, Wickman went out to catch the first pitch thrown by Joe Ladd, the president of "Wickman's Warriors," the closer's official fan club.

"I'm glad he threw a perfect one," Wickman said. "I was nervous. I'm not too mobile and I was worried because I had all those people behind me getting ready to sing the national anthem."

For one of the few times in the past few seasons, the Twins and Indians stuck to baseball without any brushbacks, beanings or barking.

There was barely a tight pitch or menacing glare between the clubs, who have been at odds the past few years. Before the series started, Major League Baseball warned the teams to behave, sending a letter to both managers to keep their players in line.

"I think it's kind of been overblown," said Indians starter Scott Elarton, proudly wearing his blue "Wickman's Warriors" T-shirt complete with its "In Bob We Trust" insignia. "It's a mutual respect more than anything."

In the eighth, Victor Martinez, in a 1-for-24 slump, broke a 1-all tie by hitting a sacrifice fly to center that scored Jhonny Peralta.

Arthur Rhodes (3-1) pitched one perfect inning, striking out two. Wickman gave up a one-out double that just missed being a homer to Torii Hunter, who advanced on a groundout. After a walk, Wickman got Michael Cuddyer to ground out for his 13th save in 15 tries.

Peralta opened the eighth with a check-swing single off starter Kyle Lohse (3-3), who felt he made a good pitch to the shortstop.

"It's disappointing that it led to the winning run," Lohse said. "That's the way it goes sometimes."

Grady Sizemore sacrificed and Casey Blake followed with a single, but Peralta was held at third. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire brought in left-hander J.C. Romero to face Travis Hafner, who came in batting just .167 against lefties but walked.

Martinez fell behind 0-1 before hitting a liner at Hunter, who had to take a few steps back to make the catch and had no chance of throwing out Peralta. It was only the second RBI since May 8 for Martinez, who drove in 108 last season.

Shut out for six innings by Elarton and Scott Sauerbeck, the Twins tied it at 1 in the seventh on Cuddyer's two-out RBI double
off Rafael Betancourt.

Elarton pitched 5 1/3 shutout innings, allowing four hits. He was lifted after striking out Nick Punto to open the sixth but understood why manager Eric Wedge pulled him.

"I would have done the same thing," Elarton said. "I had thrown 92 pitches. I told him that."

Lohse gave up two runs and seven hits in 7 1/3 innings but lost for the first time in five starts.

Aaron Boone's baffling batting slump -- he came in hitting .156 -- was momentarily forgotten in the second when his RBI double gave the Indians a 1-0 lead.

Boone preserved Elarton's lead in the fourth with a diving stop at third that saved at least one run.

Game notes
The Indians are 6-12 in one-run games. ... In his last three starts at Jacobs Field, Lohse is 0-3 with a 6.87 ERA. ... Cuddyer has hit safely in a career-high 12 straight games. ... Indians outfielder Juan Gonzalez had the start of his rehab assignment at Triple-A Buffalo delayed by another day. Gonzalez, sidelined all season with sore hamstrings, didn't play in Monday's 10:35 a.m. start. He's scheduled to play right field on Tuesday. ... The Twins
are playing the first of seven scheduled four-game series this season. ... The Indians got encouraging news on outfielder Coco Crisp, who will miss three months after tearing a ligament in his right thumb sliding last week. He visited a hand specialist in Baltimore on Monday to determine whether he needs surgery. "It's a little more favorable than was first indicated," said Wedge, who promised to have more information Tuesday.