GAME OF THE DAY / INDIANS 2, TWINS 1

Wickman starts, ends

Key stretch begins with clutch save

ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Cleveland -- Almost three hours after Bob Wickman squatted to catch the ceremonial first pitch, he threw the last one to silence Minnesota.

   Wickman stranded the tying run at third base in the ninth inning and sent the Cleveland Indians to a 2-1 win over the Twins in a peaceful series opener between the bitter AL Central rivals on Monday night.

   The Indians, starting a 13-game stretch in which they'll face either Minnesota or first-place Chicago 10 times, have won three straight and are inching closer to .500.

   "This was another big win," Wickman said.  "We're all chasing the White Sox.  But we need to get to .500 first."

   Before the teams renewed their heated rivalry, Wickman went out to catch the first pitch thrown out by Joe Ladd, the president of "Wickman's Warriors," the closer's official fan club.

   "I'm glad he threw a perfect one," Wickman said.  "I was nervous.  I'm not too mobile, and I was worried because I had all those people behind me getting ready to sing the national anthem."

   For one of the few times in the past few seasons, the Twins and Indians stuck to baseball without any brushbacks, beanings, or barking.

   There was barely a tight pitch or menacing glare between the clubs, who have been at odds the past few years.  Before the series started, Major League Baseball warned the teams to behave, sending a letter to both managers to keep their players in line.

   "I think it's kind of overblown," said Indians starter Scott Elarton, proudly wearing his blue "Wickman's Warriors" T-shirt complete with its "In Bob We Trust" insignia.  "It's a mutual respect more than anything."

   In the eighth, Victor Martinez, in a 1-for-24 slump, broke a 1-all tie by hitting a sacrifice fly to center that score Jhonny Peralta.