CLEVELAND -- Jim Thome loves a good pennant race even more than his climb up the home run list.
"It was a big win, giving us some momentum," Thome said. "The homer gave us a lift. It means more to help us win in a pennant race."
Thome's drive against his former team during Minnesota's five-run fifth inning off David Huff (2-11) helped the Twins take two of three in the series and earn their 12th win in 16 games. Minnesota pulled within a half-game of the AL Central-leading White Sox heading into their key three-game set in Chicago starting Tuesday night.
Brian Duensing (5-1) pitched a career-high 7 1/3 innings for the Twins, yielding three earned runs and nine hits.
"We're not scoreboard watching yet," Duensing said.
First baseman Michael Cuddyer, who walked and scored on Thome's homer, praised Duensing for settling down after a rough start.
"He showed a lot of grit," he said.
Matt Guerrier retired the two men he faced in the eighth and Matt Capps worked a perfect ninth for his second save in three tries since being acquired July 29 from Washington. Capps had 26 saves with the Nationals.
Thome, who hit a franchise-record 334 homers for Cleveland before leaving as a free agent after the 2002 season, belted his 185th homer at Progressive Field. His 14th homer this year gave him 1,601 RBIs, passing former Indians player-manager and Baseball Hall of Famer Napoleon Lajoie for 31st on the career list. He's five homers behind ninth-place Mark McGwire.
"It's very special and humbling to be among those names," said Thome, who turns 40 on Aug. 27. "I'd love to keep playing. Being with Minnesota is great. A lot of what I've done comes from having great teammates everywhere I've gone."
Cleveland took a 3-0 lead in the first. Michael Brantley tripled and scored on a one-out single by Shin-Soo Choo. One out later, Matt LaPorta hit a drive into the left-field bleachers for his seventh homer.
"Duensing didn't have it early," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He floated a couple changeups in that first inning, but hung in there. It was a gutty performance."
Duensing retired 12 of his last 14 batters, striking out three without a walk in his fourth start this year and 13th in 67 career games. The left-hander moved into the rotation July 23, filling the spot that opened when Nick Blackburn was sent back to the minors.
Huff allowed five runs and six hits over 4 1/3 innings and couldn't explain why he got hit hard in the fifth.
"I don't know what the deal was," said Huff, who is 1-10 with a 7.24 ERA in 13 starts since April 21. Optioned to Triple-A Columbus on June 21, he went 6-0 for the Clippers and was recalled Tuesday.
Manager Manny Acta had a strong opinion on the left-hander's struggles.
"David had no command at all of his fastball," Acta said. "He pitched behind in the count the whole time. You can't get away with that at this level. They hit him hard."
Hudson went 1 for 3 and committed a throwing error. Sidelined since July 24 by a strained right oblique muscle, he was activated before the game and reliever Anthony Slama optioned to Triple-A Rochester.
Twins star Joe Mauer was 1 for 3 with a walk in his first start at catcher since getting a cortisone shot for right shoulder tendinitis July 31. The three-time batting champion and reigning AL MVP stayed in the lineup as the DH and has hit .537 (22 for 41) with 16 RBIs in his last 11 games.
Twins 2B Alexi Casilla sat out with a sprained left ankle. Casilla, hurt in a home-plate collision Saturday, said he hopes to play in a few days. ... Twins RHP Kevin Slowey did not throw his scheduled bullpen session because of some elbow tendinitis. He expects to take his regular rotation turn Tuesday. ... Cleveland signed its 13th-round pick in the June draft, RHP Michael Goodnight of the University of Houston. The Indians have signed 16 of their 50 picks, but none of their top five. ... Indians RHP Mitch Talbot, on the DL since July 30 with a strained back, is scheduled to make a rehab start Monday at short-season Mahoning Valley. ... Cleveland has lost seven of its last nine home games.