Gooden pitched six strong innings, giving up six hits and one run as the Indians held off the Minnesota Twins 3-2 Thursday night. In just his third start of the season, Gooden (1-2) won in the majors for the first time while not wearing a New York uniform.
The right-hander, who struck out three and walked one, was Rookie of the Year with the Mets in 1984. He became the youngest player to win the Cy Young Award the following season, but missed a month of the 1987 season in drug rehabilitation.
After another drug suspension in 1994, he was released by the Mets. The Yankees gave him another chance before the 1996 season, but failed to exercise their option on his contract for this year.
Cleveland then signed him to a two-year deal. Gooden showed Thursday he is making significant progress in recovering from biceps tendinitis in his pitching arm that kept him out nearly two months.
"I have to work on getting stronger," Gooden said after his longest outing of the season. "I'm looking at being stronger at the end of the year."
In his first two outings, both against the Toronto Blue Jays, Gooden gave up a combined six runs in 8 2-3 innings while taking the loss in both games. The Indians managed just two runs of support for both games.
"He threw more strikes than he has in his last two outings," Twins outfielder Matt Lawton said. "It was more typical Dwight Gooden."
Minnesota's Brad Radke, who won his four previous starts, also pitched well, until Jim Thome's three-run homer in the fourth inning gave Cleveland a 3-1 lead.
After Radke (7-4) gave up singles to Omar Vizquel and David Justice to start the inning, Thome followed by hitting a 3-0 pitch into the seats in left.
"He's the type of pitcher that's always around the plate," Thome said. "I was fortunate to get a 3-0 count and I was looking to hit the ball away."
The only mistake Gooden made was to Marty Cordova in the second inning. Cordova led off with a solo shot, his third homer of the season.
"(Gooden) will be a big part of our future," Thome said. "It seems like every outing he gets better and better. When he needs to make a big pitch he does."
Radke, who gave up seven hits and three runs in 7 1-3 innings, knew he was in for a duel with Gooden.
"He's been a great pitcher for a long time," Radke said. "He kept the ball down and pitched a great game for them."
Otis Nixon hit a solo home run off Paul Assenmacher to lead off the eighth inning, cutting the lead to 3-2. Mike Jackson pitched the ninth for his 13th save in 16 opportunities.