Cliff Lee ... improves to 14-2.
Cliff Lee was superb for eight innings and the Indians' offense was good for two. Masahide Kobayashi was so bad for 10 pitches, though, that it took Rafael Perez's fine relief work before Cleveland could claim a 5-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Friday night. Kobayashi came on for his seventh save and nearly coughed up a 5-2 lead. Perez got three quick outs, stranding the tying run at third.
Lee (14-2, 2.29 ERA) struck out 10 without a walk to continued his remarkably consistent season that has him being mentioned as a candidate for the AL Cy Young Award.
In the Indians' proud pitching history, only three others had started season as well as Lee -- Jim Bagby (14-2) in 1920, Johnny Allen (15-1) in 1937 and Gaylord Perry (15-1) in 1974.
Lee, who 363 days ago was sent to the minors in the midst of his career-worst season when he went only 5-8 with a 6.29 ERA, is now on pace to become Cleveland's first 20-game winner since Perry did it 34 years ago with a 21-13 record.
From 2004 through 2006, Lee went a combined 46-24, including an 18-5 mark in 2005 when he finished fourth in the Cy Young voting. His .783 winning percentage that season was the third-best in Indians history for a pitcher with 15 decisions, behind Allen, who finished 15-1 (.938) in '37 and Hall of Famer Bob Feller, who went 13-3 (.813) as the Tribe won the AL pennant in 1954.
Win No. 14 didn't come easy despite the Indians' offense seemingly hitting every pitch thrown by Twins starter Livan Hernandez over the first two innings.
The Tribe took a 4-0 lead in the first inning. Grady Sizemore singled, took second on a single by Jamey Carroll and scored from there on a sacrifice fly by Ben Francisco. That's right, from second on a sac fly -- though Francisco hit the ball so well it should have been a double.
Twins centerfielder Carlos Gomez raced to left-center and made a leaping catch while almost simultaneously crashing into the wall at full speed. He tumbled to the ground with the ball in his glove, while Sizemore scored easily.
Gomez was taken from the field on a cart and sent to a hospital for tests. He returned to Progressive Field about 10 minutes after the final out, saying he was in great pain in his lower back but that tests remarkably showed no broken bones.
Carroll advanced to second on the play, then went to third on a single by Jhonny Peralta. Shin-Soo Choo followed with a drive into the left-center gap. Rookie Denard Span, who had moved over from right field to replace Gomez with Jason Kubel in the game in right, made a diving catch, turning a likely hit into another sac fly, scoring Carroll.
Casey Blake then singled Peralta to second and Kelly Shoppach hit a drive to almost the exact spot at the wall where Gomez had been hurt. Incredibly, Span got a glove on it and rammed the wall, too. He dropped the ball, however, and Shoppach ended up on second with a two-run double for a 4-0 lead.
Franklin Gutierrez made it 5-0 by leading off the second inning with his fourth homer -- and first since May 27.
The Indians put two runners on in the third and fourth, but each time Hernandez wiggled out of it by getting inning-ending double plays.
Lee yielded an RBI single to Span in the third. In the sixth, Span doubled for his third hit off the lefty and scored on a single by Joe Mauer to make it 5-2.
Kobayashi nearly torched it all in the ninth. He gave up a quick single to Mauer, who scored on a long homer by Justin Morneau to make it 5-4. When Delmon Young doubled, the fans serenaded Kobayashi with boos and manager Eric Wedge called on Perez.
Garko at first base saved the game by making a diving, backhanded catch of a liner off the bat of pinch-hitter Mike Redmond. Perez got Brendan Harris to bounce back to him for out No. 2.
Young stole third with Nick Punto at bat. Punto fouled off three straight 1-2 pitches, then hit a sharp grounder between Perez's legs that looked headed for center field. But Asdrubal Cabrera, who replaced Carroll in the field an inning earlier, glided over towards the bag, scooped it up and threw to first for the final out.
Cabrera came on when Carroll left with a strained left hamstring.