MINNEAPOLIS -- September is only seven days old, but it's already looking a lot better than August did for the Indians.
Cleveland didn't get a good outing from starter Jeanmar Gomez on Friday against the Twins. But the Tribe strung together plenty of hits and its bullpen locked down Minnesota on the way to a 7-6 series-opening victory at Target Field.
The Indians have won four of six this month after going 5-24 in August.
Michael Brantley's RBI single in the seventh gave Cleveland a 5-4 lead, and his teammates tacked on two additional runs in the inning for insurance. David Huff threw 3 1/3 perfect innings of relief after Gomez largely struggled for three frames. Russ Canzler also starred for the Indians offense, going 3-for-4 with his first career home run and three RBIs.
The Indians entered the seventh tied at four, having erased a 4-0 deficit. Jason Kipnis led off by drawing a walk. Minnesota reliever Tyler Robertson fired the ball to first as Kipnis took off for second, and Justin Morneau got his ensuing throw to second in time, but Pedro Florimon couldn't handle it. The error let Kipnis slide into second safely.
Robertson also issued a walk to Asdrubal Cabrera, prompting the Twins to bring in Alex Burnett, who wouldn't fare much better. Burnett induced a fielder's choice groundout from Carlos Santana before allowing Brantley's single through the right side.
"Michael is a professional hitter," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "He doesn't panic at the plate. He's done that for us the whole season. We understand that he's not your prototype cleanup or fifth hitter, but he's giving us quality at-bats and driven in some big runs for us because he just doesn't panic and doesn't strike out much. He knows what to do at the plate."
Canzler and Casey Kotchman both registered infield singles, bringing home another run. Burnett walked pinch-hitter Cord Phelps with the bases loaded to cap Cleveland's seventh-inning rally.
Cleveland sat in a 4-0 hole earlier mostly due to Gomez's difficulties. The Tribe owed its opportunity for a comeback to Huff, who was spectacular in his second career relief appearance, relieving Gomez after the third. Huff hadn't pitched out of the bullpen since Aug. 16, 2011, against the White Sox.
"I felt good," Huff said. "Honestly I didn't even know I was going to get in tonight. From what I was told, I had a 10 percent chance of getting in. But that phone rang, they called my name, and I just got ready."
Huff struck out four batters in 3 1/3 innings while allowing no baserunners. Three of the four strikeouts were punctuated with fastballs.
"He came out and threw the ball very well," Brantley said of Huff. "He attacked hitters. He was ahead in the count all day. For a guy coming out of the pen that's usually not, he did just a phenomenal job to get us off our feet and into the dugout so we could swing the bats a little bit."
Gomez didn't give up a hit until the third inning, but also couldn't find his control. He walked the first two batters of the second inning before bailing himself out and retiring the next three, though Chris Parmelee's flyout scored Josh Willingham.
The right-hander wasn't as fortunate in the third, when he allowed leadoff singles to Florimon and Ben Revere. Eduardo Escobar's sacrifice bunt moved both runners over and Cleveland elected to intentionally walk Joe Mauer, loading the bases for Willingham. The decision proved costly, as Willingham smashed a double to score two runs. Morneau followed with a sacrifice fly to bring home another run.
Gomez threw just 59 pitches, but Acta had seen enough to pull him after three innings. Having 11 pitchers in the bullpen because of expanded rosters made the decision even easier, Acta said.
"Gomez just wasn't aggressive enough," Acta said. "He didn't throw even 50 percent first-pitch strikes and he had already given up four runs. [Huff] took advantage of it and he pitched very well with his fastball, in and out."
Cleveland scored its first four runs against Minnesota starter Liam Hendriks, pushing across two each in the fourth and fifth innings. Canzler's two-run homer came in the fourth after Brantley tagged a leadoff single.
"The two-run homer obviously was huge," Acta said. "If we didn't get those two, down by four, things could have been different. He brought some momentum back."
Canzler and Shin-Soo Choo each drove in a run in the fifth with singles against Hendriks, who allowed the four runs on eight hits in five innings.
"He threw 107 pitches in five innings, he didn't attack the strike zone, and I'm just guessing, but it sure looked like a lot of breaking balls to me," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Hendriks. "Flipping the ball. He didn't attack, he didn't pound the strike zone. You get a lead, you have to go attack."
Jordan Garretson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.