CLEVELAND – Jim Thome celebrated his birthday by putting another candle on the cake and another ball into the stands.
Asdrubal Cabrera, however, gave Indians fans an even bigger reason to cheer Saturday night.
Cabrera hammered a three-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, lifting the Tribe to a stunning 8-7 victory over the Kansas City Royals.
The come-from-behind win allowed Cleveland (65-64) to stay 6½ games behind Detroit in the American League Central Division – and was its second in as many nights since Thome rejoined the team in a trade with Minnesota.
“I’m old enough to be a lot of people’s dads, but these guys are making me feel young,” said Thome, who hit his 602nd career home run on his 41st birthday. “Asdrubal’s homer was tremendous and really made this night special. Hopefully we can keep it going.”
Cabrera’s three-run shot off Royals reliever Louis Coleman completed the Indians’ comeback from a 7-4 deficit. Kansas City had broken a 4-4 tie in the top of the seventh on Alex Gordon’s three-run homer deep into the center-field stands.
Tribe left-hander Tony Sipp entered the game specifically to face Gordon, but it turned out disastrously as he served up a 390-foot shot that scored Johnny Giavotella and Alcides Escobar.
“It was a roller coaster of emotions tonight, but we wound up with a very important win,” Cleveland manager Manny Acta said.
“We need to continue to take care of our own business and see what happens. This win was big, though.”
The Indians pulled within 7-5 in the bottom of the seventh when Cabrera scored Kosuke Fukudome on a double off Kansas City reliever Blake Wood.
Coleman (1-4, 2.75 ERA) quickly recorded two outs in the eighth, but pinch hitter Lonnie Chisenhall singled and Fukudome walked, putting the potential go-ahead run at the plate in Cabrera.
The all-star shortstop got a hanging slider from Coleman, and promptly smashed it to deep right field for his 21st homer of the season.
Cleveland closer Chris Perez rapidly warmed up and retired the Royals in the ninth for his 29th save, while Joe Smith (3-3, 1.53 ERA) picked up the win with his third of an inning of work.
“As soon as Cabby hit it, I knew it was gone,” Perez said. “We need wins right now, so this was very big tonight. Being 6½ games out isn’t an easy situation, but it looks a whole lot better than being 7½ out.”
Thome brought the energetic crowd of 35,370 to its feet in the sixth inning when he hit one of his trademark laser shots into the first row of the bleachers in left.
The solo home run off starter Danny Duffy tied the score at 4 and earned Thome a two-minute standing ovation and subsequent curtain call.
It was Thome’s first home run in an Indians uniform since Sept. 28, 2002, marked his 187th at Jacobs/Progressive Field and extended his franchise record to 335. He finished the evening 1-for-3 with two runs, one walk and two strikeouts.
“The last two days have been a whirlwind in a good sort of way,” said Thome, who ranks eighth in MLB history in homers and is seven behind Sammy Sosa for seventh place. “This home run brought back a lot of memories, but I have already made new memories here since I got home.
“To come home and hear the reception and the fans be so joyful and energetic, I’ll never forget it.”
Tribe starter Fausto Carmona lived on the edge throughout his 61⁄3-inning stint, allowing eight hits and six runs, five of them earned.
The right-hander’s numbers could have been much worse, but Shelley Duncan saved at least two runs by making a pair of clutch defensive plays in left field. On the other hand, they would have looked much better had Sipp not staged his torch job.
“Carmona was OK, but their left-handed hitters kind of wore him out,” Acta said. “Tony has been money all year, but he hung a slider and Gordon made him pay for it.”
Left-hander Duffy went 51⁄3 innings, allowing four runs while striking out seven before being removed after Thome’s blast. He also was on the mound when Cleveland right fielder Shin-Soo Choo felt his sore left back/side flare up, forcing him to leave the game and be shut down for several days.
Third baseman Jack Hannahan was another major contributor for the Indians with two hits and three RBIs. He and Duncan were the only players to honor Thome by emulating his high-socks look.
“As soon as Jimmy walked into the clubhouse for the first time, everybody sparked up,” Hannahan said. “The impact he’s had here already has been big. We’re having a great time right now, and we don’t want it to stop.”
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.
• WHO: Cleveland vs. Kansas City
• TIME: 1:05WHERE: Progressive Field
• PITCHERS: Masterson (10-7, 2.83 ERA) vs. Chen (9-5, 4.12)
• TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio, Channel 3; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM