Indians 11, Twins 6

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CLEVELAND (AP) – Six months and a season too late, the Cleveland Indians finally came through in the clutch.

Casey Blake hit a two-out grand slam, Travis Hafner homered twice and Paul Byrd pitched long enough to win a start he had waited 15 years for, helping the Indians roll to an 11-6 home-opening win over the Minnesota Twins on Friday.

Back at sold out Jacobs Field for the first time since their final-week collapse in 2005, the Indians began to erase some of the bitter memories of a 1-6 record down the stretch that cost them a playoff spot despite 93 wins.

Hafner went 4-for-4 with four runs, Victor Martinez added two RBIs and Grady Sizemore had three hits and made a tough catch for Cleveland, which has won three straight since dropping the season opener against the Chicago White Sox.

Blake connected off Kyle Lohse (0-1) in the fifth inning when the Indians scored five runs to open a 9-3 lead. Last season, Blake was 0-for-7 with the bases loaded and two outs, and 2-for-14 with the bags full.

Overall, he batted .085 with two outs and runners in scoring position.

But those numbers meant little in the fifth, when he pulled Lohse’s first pitch over the wall in left for his second career slam, giving the Indians a 9-3 lead. It was the first bases-loaded homer in a Cleveland home opener since Hafner hit one in 2004 – also off Lohse.

Justin Morneau homered twice and Joe Mauer had two RBIs for the Twins.

Byrd’s career came full circle as the right-hander, who was drafted by Cleveland in 1991 and traded three years later, made his first start at the Jake in an Indians uniform. Byrd (1-0) allowed five runs and six hits in six innings, a typical outing for 35-year-old being counted on to help replace Kevin Millwood.

The Indians, who failed to deliver in crucial situations during their early fall fadeaway last October, got four hits – two with two outs – in the first and took a 2-0 lead on RBI singles by Jhonny Peralta and Ben Broussard.

The Twins got a run back in the third on Shannon Stewart’s RBI groundout, but Cleveland went up 4-1 in the bottom half on a two-run double by Martinez, whose towering shot to left-center fooled fans and the fireworks’ operator, who sent sparklers normally reserved for home runs high above the fog-shrouded Jake.

In the second, Sizemore raced back and made a leaping catch against the wall in center to rob Morneau of extra bases. The play drew a wide smile from Byrd, who has pitched for the New York Mets, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Kansas City, the Braves again, and the Los Angeles Angels between stops with Cleveland.

Notes: Indians 2B Ronnie Belliard left in the eighth with a tight calf muscle. … Twins RF Lew Ford was removed in the sixth with a tight hamstring. … With a 2 p.m. waiver deadline looming, the Indians traded INF Brandon Phillips to Cincinnati. Phillips began 2003 as Cleveland’s starter at second base, but never reached the stardom forecast when the club acquired him from Montreal in 2002. … The Twins won the season series between the AL Central rivals 10-9 last season. … While in Chicago, the Indians saw the White Sox get their World Series rings during what became a three-day celebration of the club’s first world championship since 1918. “We saw plenty,” 3B Aaron Boone said. “I thought they did it up right and did it well. It all was pretty neat.”

AP-ES-04-07-06 1754EDT

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