CLEVELAND -- One thing we have learned from watching Eduardo Escobar is that he doesn't get cheated on a swing. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Escobar -- listed at 5-10 -- hits home runs as far as anyone during batting practice.
So Eduardo, are you the most powerful man on the team?
"Every now and then," he said before laughing.
Escobar provided some diminutive dynamite Monday, as his home run was the game-winner in the Twins' 1-0, 10-inning victory over the Indians at Progressive Field. Escobar launched a 1-0 pitch from closer John Axford an estimated 352 feet and into the stands in right, sending the Twins bench into a frenzy. The Twins opened their seven-game road trip with a bang, only the second time the team has won the first game of a series this season.
It might have been fitting that Gardenhire's last available position player had the biggest hit of the night.
With Joe Mauer still recovering from back spasms, the Twins were down to two bench players. Both were used in the seventh inning, as Gardenhire pushed for a run.
Josmil Pinto cracked a two-out double to left and was replaced by pinch runner Danny Santana, making his major league debut. It nearly was a disastrous debut, as he barely beat a pickoff attempt by catcher Yan Gomes. Chris Herrmann walked, and Gardenhire sent up Escobar as a pinch hitter. Cleveland manager Terry Francona pulled starter Zach McAllister for reliever Bryan Shaw. Shaw got Escobar to ground out to end the inning.
The Twins headed into the final two innings with a depleted bench. Both bullpens hung tough to force extra innings.
Cleveland sent Axford out to pitch the 10th. He needed a recovery outing after giving up a three-run home run to Dayan Vicideo in the ninth inning on Sunday in a 4-3 loss to the White Sox. Axford ended up getting booed off the mound after giving up the home run to Escobar.
Caleb Thielbar got the win in relief, with Glen Perkins earning his eighth save. But starter Kyle Gibson did everything he could to put the Twins in position to win -- even getting his uniform dirty.
In the fourth inning, he raced to first on a grounder into the hole at second. Second baseman Brian Dozier scrambled to field the ball, spun and threw to first. Gibson had to reach back to his left to catch the slightly off-target throw, then slid toward first, jamming his foot on the bag to get the out. The degree of difficulty shot up because first baseman Chris Colabello went for the ball but failed to reach it, so he tried to retreat to first but partly shielded Gibson from the throw.
Gibson needed to get back to the mound, where things were easier for him.
In seven innings, Gibson gave up two hits and three walks with one strikeout. He wasn't totally dominant -- he fell behind several batters and only 56 of his 100 pitches were strikes -- but Cleveland hitters could not square up his pitches, and this was the second time the Indians faced him this season. Gibson has not given up a home run in 36 innings. He's the only pitcher in baseball to have thrown at least 30 innings without giving up the long ball.
The righthander made all the right pitches, stringing zeros across the scoreboard, leaving the offense within one swing of the bat from winning the game.
That swing eventually came in the tenth.
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