Twins clinch AL Central

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, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

MINNEAPOLIS -- Orlando Hudson's RBI double capped a four- run eighth inning, as the Minnesota Twins earned a 6-4 come-from-behind win over Cleveland and later Tuesday became the first team in the majors to clinch a playoff spot.

With the win and a 7-2 loss by the Chicago White Sox in Oakland, the Twins clinched their second straight American League Central title and sixth in the last nine seasons under Ron Gardenhire, who picked up the 800th managerial win of his career.

The division race was not nearly as suspenseful as the previous two years, when a 163rd game was required to determine the champion. Minnesota lost a one-game playoff to Chicago to decide the Central in 2008, then needed to beat Detroit in the same situation to capture the division a year ago.

Trailing 4-1, the Twins got a run in the sixth when impressive rookie third baseman Danny Valencia drove in Jim Thome with his two-out single. Rafael Perez replaced Cleveland starting pitcher Fausto Carmona and Nick Punto grounded into a fielder's choice to end the inning.

Thome singled off Justin Masterson (6-13) to open the eighth, and Delmon Young hit a sinking line drive to center field that caromed off an indecisive Michael Brantley. Young was credited with a double that scored pinch-runner Trevor Plouffe. A single by Valencia put men on the corners for Punto, who flied out to left field.

Tony Sipp took over on the mound for Cleveland and yielded a sacrifice fly to pinch-hitter Jose Morales that tied the game. Denard Span then slapped a single to left, plating Valencia with the go-ahead run, and Hudson split the gap in right-center to make it 6-4.

Matt Capps tossed a perfect ninth for his 15th save with the Twins and 41st of the season.

Thome homered in the second inning for Minnesota, which improved to an MLB- best 45-18 since the All-Star break.

"We all pick each other up," Hudson said. "If you didn't get (a runner) in or get him over, the next man will. I'm really enjoying it and it's fun to be a part of."

Scott Baker got the starting nod for the Twins, his first since September 2 because of elbow tendinitis, and allowed two runs -- one earned -- on four hits and struck out seven over five full frames. Glen Perkins (1-1) earned the win after pitching the eighth.

Travis Hafner and Drew Sutton both had two hits and knocked in a run for the Indians, while Carmona gave up two runs and six hits in 5 2/3 innings.

"Good effort by Carmona, he pitched very well," said Cleveland manager Manny Acta. "We couldn't get it done tonight."

Cleveland scratched out a run in the first. Shin-Soo Choo drew a two-out walk and advanced to third on catcher Drew Butera's errant pickoff attempt. Hafner then put the Indians on the board with a double to left.

After Thome's blast -- his 25th of the season and 589th of his career -- tied the game in the second, Sutton restored the lead in the fifth for Cleveland with a two-out single that scored Brantley.

Jose Mijares was on the hill to begin the sixth for Minnesota and promptly gave up three consecutive singles to load the bases. Trevor Crowe grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to produce a run and Luis Valbuena followed with an RBI double to give the Indians a three-run lead.

Game Notes

The Twins' J.J. Hardy missed the game with a migraine headache and was replaced by Punto at shortstop...Minnesota outfielder Jason Kubel returned to the lineup after missing four games with a sore left wrist...The Twins improved to 51-25 at Target Field...Minnesota is 11-6 against Cleveland in 2010.


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