CLEVELAND - Once Casey Blake scooped up the grounder, the rest was as easy as 1, 2, 3.
Blake started Cleveland's first triple play since 1992, Paul Byrd beat Minnesota once again, and Victor Martinez homered to help the Indians slow Minnesota's climb in the AL Central with an 8-3 win over the Twins last night.
Blake finishes his pregame fielding routine at third base the same way every day. He charges a grounder close to the bag on the odd chance that he could get one like it in a game and possibly turn a triple play.
All that practice paid off.
"I visualized it almost exactly how it happened," Blake said. "It was cool."
With Twins runners at first and second in the seventh, Indians manager Eric Wedge, not wanting to see a 7-3 lead dwindle any more, replaced Byrd (13-5) with left-hander Rafael Perez to face Mike Redmond.
On his third pitch to the right-handed hitter, Perez got Redmond to pull a ball toward Blake, who swept it up and stepped on third. He threw to second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera for another force, and Cleveland's rookie fired to first baseman Martinez in time to get the plodding Redmond.
"As soon as [Redmond] hit it, there was dead silence in the dugout," said Byrd. "And when we turned it, for me it was like water to a dying man in the desert."
It was the first triple play turned by the Indians since Aug. 7, 1992, at Baltimore, and Cleveland's first at home since June 7, 1976 - also against the Twins.
According to the Elias Sports "I can't remember the last time I've seen one," Wedge said.
Byrd allowed three runs in six innings to move to 4-0 this season and 10-3 in his career against the Twins.
The first-place Indians, who will spend most of the final month on the road, remained 2 1/2 games ahead of Detroit and opened a 6 1/2-game lead over the Twins, who had won a season-high five straight.
Jason Bartlett homered for the Twins, who trailed 7-0 and were chipping away when Redmond grounded into three quick outs.
"The triple play deflated us, but that's how the night went," Torii Hunter said. "I think we can come back. We've been playing well, and we just need to stay positive."
Byrd improved to 6-1 in his last eight starts, with three of those wins coming against Minnesota. The 36-year-old, who went just 10-9 last season, has the second-most wins of his career - four shy of matching his total with Kansas City in 2002.
For some reason, the Indians have hit for Byrd, something they haven't always done for C.C. Sabathia or Fausto Carmona. Cleveland came in averaging 5.46 runs in games started by the right-hander.
Martinez hit a two-run homer in the third off Carlos Silva (10-13). Kelly Shoppach and Travis Hafner each added two RBIs for the Indians, who scored their most runs at home since July 27, when Byrd beat the Twins 10-4.
The three-game series was originally scheduled to begin today. But it was moved up to allow the Indians to squeeze in a makeup date with the Mariners.
The Indians scored four runs in the fourth to open a 7-0 lead and chase Silva. Following two singles and a sacrifice, Shoppach, stuck in a 4-for-48 slide, hit a two-run double to make it 5-0. Grady Sizemore walked, and with two outs, Hafner grounded a two-run single to center.41.50436 -81.69046