CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cleveland Indians specialized in walk-off wins last season.
Cleveland Indians' Mike Aviles celebrates his game-winning single with Nick Swisher (33) in the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins Wednesday, May 7, 2014, in Cleveland. Aviles' hit in the ninth drove in Asdrubal Cabrera for a 4-3 win. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
It took 34 games, but they finally got their first walk-off this season on Wednesday night when Mike Aviles' two-out single in the ninth inning lifted the Indians to a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins.
Cleveland's players mobbed Aviles after he crossed first base.
"It's definitely fun, especially with a noon game (Wednesday)," Aviles said. "It's always good not to play extra innings and get that big win at the end."
"That was nice," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We needed that."
The Indians had 11 walk-off victories last season as they won 92 games and made the playoffs as a wild-card team.
"We're playing at home and when you hit last you always feel like you have a chance," Francona said.
The short-handed Twins were playing their third straight game without first baseman Joe Mauer and had only 11 available position players. Eduardo Escobar, normally a shortstop, played the entire game in left field, which cost Minnesota in the ninth.
Asdrubal Cabrera led off the inning with a double against Casey Fien (3-1). Escobar misjudged the ball and turned the wrong way as it landed on the warning track.
"He just didn't get to it, I'm sure he shied away from the wall," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's not been out there a lot and it was going toward the wall over his head and he got to the warning track and felt that he was a little too close probably."
After Lonnie Chisenhall's sacrifice bunt, Yan Gomes grounded out. Aviles hit a hard ground ball on a 1-1 pitch into center field.
John Axford (1-3), who had allowed game-winning home runs in his previous two outings, survived a shaky ninth. He retired the first two hitters, but Danny Santana doubled down the right-field line. After Brian Dozier walked on a 3-2 pitch, third baseman Carlos Santana, who had to contend with a fan who wanted the ball, leaned into the stands to catch Sam Fuld's foul popup.
"I was yelling from the mound, but I don't think he heard me," Axford said of the fan. "I was yelling, 'don't touch it.' "
Axford had a bad week going into the game. Chicago's Dayan Viciedo hit a three-run homer in the ninth inning Sunday while Escobar hit a solo homer in the 10th inning Monday, giving Minnesota a 1-0 win.
Axford was unavailable Tuesday after pitching the three previous games.
"I felt good," he said. "Physically, I feel great. It worked out perfect. I got a day off and was able to rest up."
Danny Salazar, who hit 100 mph on the Progressive Field radar gun several times, took a 3-1 lead into the seventh, but Minnesota tied the game on pinch-hitter Santana's RBI single and Dozier's sacrifice fly.
Salazar retired the first hitter, but Josmil Pinto singled and took third when Escobar doubled to left-center. Bryan Shaw relieved to face Santana, who batted for Pedro Florimon. Shaw had to hit the deck to avoid Santana's liner up the middle that scored Pinto and put runners at first and third.
Dozier's fly ball scored Escobar.
Salazar allowed three runs and struck out seven in 6 1-3 innings.
Ricky Nolasco gave up three runs with nine strikeouts in six innings.
Michael Brantley had a two-run double in the third and Gomes hit a leadoff homer in the fifth.
Dozier had an RBI double in the third.
Mauer, who has lower back spasms, played catch and took swings off a batting tee before the game.
Gomes' home run atoned for his ninth error of the season that helped Minnesota score in the third. Florimon drew a two-out walk, stole second and took third when Gomes' throw skipped into center field. Dozier followed with his double.
NOTES: Indians OF Michael Bourn (tight left hamstring) missed his fourth straight game, but said he could return for the final game of the series Thursday. ... The Twins selected the contract of RHP Matt Guerrier from Triple-A Rochester and optioned LHP Logan Darnell to the same club. ... OF Aaron Hicks (concussion) is taking live batting practice in Minneapolis and could come off the 7-day disabled list this weekend. ... Twins RHP Kevin Correia (1-3) faces RHP Justin Masterson (1-1) on Thursday.