Final

Series: Game 1 of 3

Minnesota leads 1-0 (as of 9/24)

Game 1: Tuesday, September 24
Cleveland 3Final
Minnesota 4
Game 2: Wednesday, September 25
Cleveland 5Final
in 12
Minnesota 7
Game 3: Thursday, September 26
Cleveland 8Final
Minnesota 4

Indians 3

(70-87, 34-45 away)

Twins 4

(90-66, 50-26 home)

    8:05 PM ET, September 24, 2002

    Mall of America Field, Minneapolis, Minnesota 

    123456789 R H E
    CLE 000100020 3 - -
    MIN 002010001 4 - -

    W: L. Hawkins (5-0)

    L: D. Elder (0-2)

    Twins' Milton pitches his best game in months

    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Minnesota Twins rekindled some of the intensity they'd lost since clinching their division.

    Milton
    Milton

    And more importantly, Eric Milton found his rhythm.

    Bobby Kielty hit a sacrifice fly in the ninth inning Tuesday night to give Minnesota another comeback victory, 4-3 over the Cleveland Indians. "We're just trying to get back to playing our kind of baseball,'' said Kielty, whose Twins were playing their first home game since clinching the AL Central in Cleveland Sept. 15. They were swept in Chicago last weekend to finish a 4-5 road trip.

    "We were getting after it a lot better than the last few games,'' manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Guys were out there smiling, having a little fun.''

    Milton was able to crack a smile, too, after his best outing since a knee injury that put him on the disabled list for a month -- allowing a run, six hits and a walk while striking out three and throwing 95 pitches in 6 2/3 innings.

    "I was just trying to get back into game shape,'' said Milton, who still hasn't won since Aug. 1 -- his last start before he got hurt. "Trying to get my focus on every single pitch.''

    Even Jim Thome's 48th homer, second in the AL, came on a decent pitch -- a fastball low and away leading off the fourth inning.

    Thome, who extended his streak of reaching base to 50 straight games, was impressed. Much more so than in their last meeting, when Cleveland clobbered him for nine runs in 1 2/3 innings.

    "His fastball had more pop than a week ago,'' Thome said. "He threw some really nice breaking balls. Sure, he's just off the disabled list. But he's still a big guy they can count on because he does such a nice job.''

    This was a critical start for Milton, who was pitching like Minnesota's ace earlier this summer before tearing his left meniscus in August and then missed a month. He's scheduled to pitch Game 4 of the Twins' division series, if it's necessary.

    "I'm really, really proud of Eric Milton,'' Gardenhire said. "He's been working very, very hard to get himself back into position.''

    A.J. Pierzynski led off the ninth with a double against David Elder (0-2), and pinch-runner Mike Ryan took third on a sacrifice by Luis Rivas. Dustan Mohr and Cristian Guzman were both intentionally walked, and Kielty hit a fly to medium left field that was deep enough for Ryan to slide past Chris Magruder's throw.

    LaTroy Hawkins (5-0) pitched a scoreless ninth for the victory, and David Ortiz drove in two runs.

    Kyle Lohse walked Coco Crisp leading off the eighth, and one out later, Ellis Burks hit his 31st homer, a drive into the left-field seats that tied the game at 3.

    The crowd of 21,634 was treated to a pregame ceremony honoring the Twins' first postseason berth since 1991.

    Highlights of the team's champagne-drenched clinching celebration in Cleveland were shown on the scoreboard, players and coaches came out on the field to acknowledge the Homer Hanky-waving fans and a red banner that read ''2002 AL Central Division Champions'' was uncovered behind the foul pole in right field.

    Cleveland's Ricardo Rodriguez, making his seventh start since his major league debut on August 21, pitched effectively for six innings. He gave up three runs, four hits, three walks and struck out four.

    The Twins, still ninth in the AL in home runs despite better power numbers this year, put together the type of rally in the third inning they'll have to produce to be successful in the playoffs.

    Pierzynski walked, took third on a double to the gap by Luis Rivas and scored on a groundout by Dustan Mohr. Ortiz later drove in Rivas with a single.

    The Twins went ahead 3-1 in the fifth with the help of the Metrodome's lively turf -- one of several home field advantages that Minnesota will also need in the postseason.

    Bobby Kielty hit a ground ball just past the diving reach of second baseman John McDonald that sped all the way to the warning track for a triple. Kielty scored when Ortiz hit a hard grounder that zoomed under McDonald's glove for an error, but Ortiz was credited with an RBI.

    Game notes


    Twins 3B Corey Koskie left the game after fouling a ball off his right ankle. X-rays were negative. ... Thome hit his 20th career Metrodome homer. That's the most he's hit anywhere outside of Cleveland's Jacobs Field. ... Twins rookie OF Michael Restovich, a Rochester, Minn., native, made his home debut but struck out as a pinch-hitter.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

    SPONSORED HEADLINES