Twins get the help they needed to clinch wild card
CLEVELAND -- One year after losing 103 games, the Minnesota Twins are headed to the playoffs.
Despite a 4-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday night at Progressive Field, the Twins clinched the second American League wild card when the Los Angeles Angels fell 6-4 to the Chicago White Sox in 10 innings.
Minnesota (83-74) will be on the road to face the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox in the AL wild-card game Tuesday.
Before getting help from the Angels, the Twins fell to the Indians, who got a homer from Yan Gomes and three hits from Carlos Santana.
With one more win, the 2017 Indians (99-59) would join the 1995 (100-44) and the 1954 (111-43) clubs as the only Cleveland teams to win 100 games in a season.
The loss snapped Minnesota's five-game winning streak.
Minnesota became the first team in major league history to reach the playoffs after losing 100 games the previous season. The Twins will play the AL wild-card game Tuesday on the road against either the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox.
"It's been awesome watching this team come together all season," Twins veteran Joe Mauer said during the clubhouse celebration. "This is the best sound in the world. It's been one of the most fun years that I've ever had.
"I like our guys. This is the culmination of a lot of hard work over the last few years."
The Indians (99-59) and Twins (83-75) split the first two games of the series with Cleveland prevailing 4-2 on Wednesday.
The 100-win teams in Indians history were the 1995 squad that went 100-44 in a strike-shortened campaign, and the 1954 team that set a then-American League record by going 111-43.
Mike Clevinger (12-5) pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings of relief to get the win.
Indians starter Danny Salazar was overpowering, pitching 4 2/3 scoreless innings and allowing one hit with nine strikeouts and one walk. Salazar, who is coming back from an elbow injury, struck out eight of the first 12 batters he faced.
"Danny looked great. That was really, really encouraging," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He worked ahead in the count, and had dominating stuff. That was exciting to see."
With the Indians leading 2-0, two outs and nobody on base in the top of the fifth inning, Salazar, his pitch count at 64, was removed from the game.
"We wanted him to go around 65 pitches," Francona said. "We're trying to navigate through some things, but also trying to win."
Twins starter Adalberto Mejia (4-7) lasted 3 2/3 innings, giving up two runs and five hits with three walks and three strikeouts.
"He had a lot of misfires that got his pitch count up, and we had to make the decision to take him out," Twins manager Paul Molitor said.
Cleveland tacked on an unearned run in the fifth inning. In the sixth, Gomes made it 4-0 with his 14th home run, a solo shot off reliever Michael Tonkin.
The Indians' two catchers, Gomes and Roberto Perez, have combined to hit 21 home runs with 92 RBIs this year.
"We're going to need both of them (in the postseason), so it's great when they are both being productive like that," Francona said.
A two-run homer by Jorge Polanco in the ninth inning off Cleveland closer Cody Allen accounted for the Twins' only runs.
Mejia had a 1.86 ERA in two previous starts against the Indians this season, but Cleveland jumped on him for a run in the first inning.
With two outs and nobody on, Jose Ramirez doubled into the left field corner, his major-league-leading 53rd double of the season, tying him with Grady Sizemore (2006) for third most in a season in Indians history.
Edwin Encarnacion followed with a line single to center, scoring Ramirez with the first run of the game.
"It was one of those days, it didn't happen for me," Mejia said. "I had some good moments and some bad moments."
The Indians scored again in the fourth inning, which began with consecutive singles by Encarnacion and Santana, putting runners at first and second with no outs.
Mejia retired Jay Bruce on a flyout and then struck out Yandy Diaz for the second out. But Jason Kipnis drew a walk, loading the bases, and Mejia hit Gomes with a 1-2 pitch, forcing in Encarnacion with a run that gave Cleveland a 2-0 lead.
Salazar retired 14 of the 16 batters he faced. The only baserunners he allowed were Max Kepler, who doubled in the second inning, and Dozier, who walked in the third.
"Salazar was obviously really good," Molitor said. "High-end velocity and a really good breaking ball and changeup."
With the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth, Bruce hit a grounder to third baseman Eduardo Escobar, who threw wildly to first for an error, allowing a run to score and extending the Cleveland lead to 3-0.
NOTES: OF Lonnie Chisenhall will be in the Indians' starting lineup Thursday for the first time since Sept. 14. Chisenhall has been sidelined with a strained right calf. ... Indians RHP Carlos Carrasco, who will start the series finale Thursday afternoon against Minnesota, is 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA in two starts against the Twins this season. ... OF Max Kepler needs one more home run to give the Twins five players with 20 or more home runs for only the third time in franchise history. Kepler would join 2B Brian Dozier (33), 3B Miguel Sano (28), OF Eddie Rosario (27) and INF Eduardo Escobar (20). ... In their season series, the Indians and Twins have dominated each other in the other's ballpark. The Indians were 9-1 at Target Field, and the Twins are 6-2 at Progressive Field.