Indians take big step toward wild-card spot
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Cleveland Indians improved their chances of grabbing a wild-card spot with a 12-6 win over the Minnesota Twins at Target Field on Friday night.
With the win, Cleveland (90-70) pulled into a tie atop the wild-card race with the Tampa Bay Rays (90-70), who were beaten by the Toronto Blue Jays. The Indians and Rays now hold a one-game lead over the Texas Rangers (89-71), who defeated the Los Angeles Angels. All three teams have two games remaining in the regular season.
"There is time to reminisce when the season is over," Indians manager Terry Francona said of reaching 90 wins. "We have to show up in about 10 hours and try to get to 91. I am thrilled that we're playing for what we're playing for, but this is a different team (than last year).
"I just want to keep playing. I don't want to go home," Francona said. "I just want to keep playing. I don't care where we play, when we play. I just want to keep playing."
Twins starter Pedro Hernandez didn't have it from the start, putting the Twins in a deep hole from the onset. The Indians built an early 7-0 lead after two innings, but the Twins slowly battled back.
"That was so nice" Francona said of the early lead. "We did such a good job early. We got after 'em and kind of stayed after 'em. We used the middle of the field and really did a good job. That was fun to watch."
With a decent cushion, Cleveland starter Corey Kluber pitched well early. But the Twins started pecking away in the fourth, scored twice in the fifth and chased Kluber in the sixth.
Kluber loaded the bases with one out in the sixth and was replaced by Rich Hill. Trevor Plouffe scored on an infield hit, and then Alex Presley knocked in two more with a single to pull the Twins within three.
The last two runs were charged to Kluber, who threw 91 pitches in 5 1/3 innings. Kluber's final line: six runs on 10 hits and one walk with five strikeouts.
"I thought the first time through the order he was real good," Francona said. "Second time through he had a little bit tougher time putting righties away. He'd get ahead and couldn't quite put them away. But I think each outing he gets a little bit better."
The Twins had 11 hits, but the Indians pounded out 17, eight of them for extra bases. Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera led the way with three hits apiece.
Two of Cleveland's hits in the eighth led to an insurance run. Drew Stubbs reached on an infield single, stole second and scored on Kipnis' double to center.
Stubbs capped the night off by hitting his 10th homer of the season in the ninth to ensure the win for Kluber, his 11th of the season.
The Indians wasted no time getting on the scoreboard. Nick Swisher doubled to left-center and scored on Kipnis' triple to right in the first inning.
Carlos Santana followed with a double to center, scoring Kipnis. Cabrera then doubled off the center-field wall, scoring Santana. Cabrera scored on Yan Gomes' single to right for a quick 4-0 lead.
In the second, Stubbs walked, Michael Brantley singled, and Stubbs scored on a double-play ball.
Hernandez had lasted only two innings in his previous outing, and he came up short of that mark against the Indians on Friday. He threw 43 pitches in 1 2/3 innings, giving up six runs on seven hits and a walk with one strikeout.
"He just didn't do very well," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He just had a bad night. They were all over from the get-go and kind of nonstop. We had to go to a couple other guys."
Shairon Martis relieved Hernandez and allowed a double to Santana, moving Kipnis to third. They both came home on Ryan Raburn's single.
The Twins finally scored in the fourth. Ryan Doumit singled and moved to second when Josmil Pinto was hit by a pitch. Plouffe singled home Doumit.
The Twins tried to stay in the game, as Pedro Florimon hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the fifth to cut the deficit to 9-3.
"Our hitters stayed after it," Gardenhire said. "We scored some runs, got back in the game and we were within striking distance. It was fun in the dugout, and we were swinging good. Unfortunately you get behind like that and it's an uphill battle the whole way."
NOTES: The Twins have 44 outfield assists on the season, which is the most in baseball. It is also the third best in club history. ... Rookie Pinto has had a month of September to remember. He ranks second among all rookies in baseball in both average (.333) and slugging percentage (.560) over that period, heading into Friday's game. ... In addition to his hitting streak (which he extended to 11 games), Brantley owns an outfield club-record 242-game errorless streak (since June 15, 2012) ... With the win, Indians manager Terry Francona how has seven 90-win seasons, which ties him for 15th all-time on managers accomplishing that feat.