CLEVELAND – The Cleveland Indians saved their best for last — again.
Matt LaPorta and Carlos Santana hit RBI doubles in the eighth inning and the Indians rallied past the Minnesota Twins 3-2 Friday night to win for the 14th time in their last at-bat at home this season.
"We want to keep people coming back," starter Justin Masterson said after yet another dramatic win sent a crowd of 31,364 home happy.
Closer Chris Perez would prefer Cleveland hitters not wait so long to score.
"I wish they'd do it in the first or second inning, but this is a lot of fun," Perez said after working a perfect ninth for his 24th save in 27 chances.
Cleveland trailed 2-1 when Travis Hafner singled with one out in the eighth off Twins starter Carl Pavano. Left-hander Glen Perkins (4-3) relieved, turning the switch-hitting Santana around to the right side, where he drove a booming double to right-center field to score pinch-runner Michael Brantley with the tying run.
With two outs, LaPorta's blooper dropped in front of diving left fielder Ben Revere to make it 3-2.
"I thought it had a chance to drop, but he's pretty fast out there so I didn't know," said LaPorta, adding that Cleveland hitters feed off each other's success late in games.
"You want to step up and guys are doing whatever they can to help us win," LaPorta said.
It was Cleveland's 28th comeback win and AL-leading 19th overall in its final time at bat this season.
"These guys are resilient, not shaken by any situation," manager Manny Acta said. "Santana's double was huge."
Rafael Perez (5-2) got the final out in the eighth for the win as the second-place Indians remained three games behind Detroit in the AL Central after taking two of three from the Tigers earlier in the week.
Tsuyoshi Nishioka singled home both runs for Minnesota, which has lost 10 of 12.
Twins designated hitter Jim Thome remained two homers shy of 600. He went 0 for 2 with a walk, his 1,709th to pass Hall of Famer Mel Ott for eighth all-time. Thome also is eighth on the home run list.
Masterson started for the second time in four nights, allowing five hits and two runs over 7 2-3 innings. On Tuesday, he threw only 35 pitches over two innings before a lengthy rain delay forced him out of a game that Cleveland eventually won in 14 innings over Detroit.
"It worked out OK," he said. "It didn't feel any different. I kept it close and those guys do what they do late."
Cleveland has scored three or fewer runs in 13 of Masterson's 25 starts, but Acta said the big right-hander doesn't seem to mind.
"He's very positive mentally," Acta said. "He knows he can't control the offense — but he can control his two-seam and four-seam fastball. He's a tough guy."
Nishioka put the Twins ahead 1-0 with an RBI single in the third.
Cleveland tied it with an unearned run in the sixth. With two outs and runners on the corners, Hafner bounced a ball over Pavano. Nishioka came in from shortstop, but the ball glanced off his glove for an error to score Ezequiel Carrera from third.
"We basically gave it away," Gardenhire said. "We missed a lot of plays. It's a tough loss for us. We need some people to play a lot better baseball. It's kind of embarrassing to tell you the truth."
Gardenhire insisted Cleveland got hits on balls that should have been caught.
"We got one error, but there should have been four," Gardenhire said. "There's one error on the board. Those aren't base hits. Those are outs. I don't care what anybody says."
Nishioka's RBI single in the eighth gave the Twins a 2-1 lead.
Notes: Twins 2B Alexi Casilla, activated Friday, left in the seventh after tweaking his right hamstring running to first. He had been on the disabled list with a strain in the same area. ... Each team started only one right-handed hitter — LaPorta and Twins 3B Danny Valencia. ... Hall of Famers Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven, both former Indians, made ceremonial first pitches. Alomar threw to his brother Sandy Jr., the Indians' first base coach. Cleveland manager Manny Acta caught Blyleven's toss. Both recent inductees proudly displayed Hall of Fame rings. Blyleven noted his name on one side and position on the other, joking, "As you get older, you forget where you played, so they put pitcher on there for me." ... Another Baseball Hall of Famer, Gaylord Perry, the 1972 AL Cy Young winner with Cleveland, signed autographs in Heritage Park, site of the team's Hall of Fame beyond the center-field wall. ... The series' second game features a matchup of right-handers, Brian Duensing (8-10) for Minnesota against Josh Tomlin (11-5). Duensing beat the Indians 10-3 in Minnesota in April; Tomlin lost to the Twins 6-4 in Cleveland in June. ... Gardenhire said OF Michael Cuddyer is day-to-day with a sore neck, sustained in early batting practice Friday. That came shortly after the Twins activated 1B Justin Morneau. ... Cleveland is expected to recall LHP David Huff from Triple-A Columbus to start Sunday.