Twins near playoff berth after beating Indians
CLEVELAND — What seemed impossible at the start of the season, is now perhaps just a game away for the Minnesota Twins.
Brian Dozier’s three-run homer in the eighth inning lifted the Twins to an 8-6 victory over the Cleveland Indians in a wild slugfest Tuesday night at Progressive Field, moving Minnesota to the brink of a playoff berth.
With their fifth win in a row, the Twins lowered their magic number for clinching the American League’s second wild-card spot to one. One Twins win or one Los Angeles Angels loss will put Minnesota into playoffs.
The Twins, who lost 103 games last year, are trying to become the first team in history to lose 100 or more games one year and reach the postseason the next year.
“That was as big an explosion in our dugout as we’ve had all year, when Dozier’s ball went over the wall. It was quite a moment,” said Minnesota manager Paul Molitor.
“It’s all coming together for us,” said Twins center fielder Byron Buxton. “We’re playing great baseball. Now we’ve got to keep it going.”
Minnesota pounded out 17 hits and used a club-record 10 pitchers in the game that saw starter Bartolo Colon leave after one inning because of illness.
Taylor Rogers (7-3), the eighth Minnesota pitcher, got the last two outs of the seventh inning for the win. Matt Belisle pitched the ninth for his eighth save.
Bryan Shaw (4-6), who gave up the homer to Dozier, took the loss.
Trailing 6-4, the Twins rallied in the eighth inning against Shaw.
With one out, Jason Castro and Robbie Grossman singled. Dozier then belted an 0-1 pitch from Shaw over the right field wall for his 33rd home run, giving the Twins a 7-6 lead.
“When a guy hits a 97-mph cutter down and away, over the wall to the opposite field, you tip your cap,” said Cleveland manager Terry Francona.
Minnesota added an insurance run on an RBI single by Buxton in the ninth.
Edwin Encarnacion had three hits, including a home run, and drove in four runs for the Indians.
“It was one of those games,” said Molitor. “We continued to fight throughout, and the Indians do what they do — they came back twice, but give our guys credit. We’re trying to take care of business, and this was a good step.”
With the score tied 4-4, Cleveland took a 5-4 lead on a sacrifice fly by Francisco Lindor in the sixth inning.
Encarnacion’s home run, an opposite field shot over the right field wall against Ryan Pressly in the seventh, extended the lead to 6-4.
Each team scored two runs in the first inning.
Dozier led off the game by doubling off the left field wall on an 0-2 pitch from Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin, then later scored on a groundout by Jorge Polanco.
Eddie Rosario’s 27th home run, over the right field wall, gave the Twins a 2-0 lead.
“They’ve got a really good lineup,” Francona said. “They are hard to pitch to. There aren’t a lot of holes, one through nine.”
A two-run single by Encarnacion in the bottom of the first tied it at 2-2. Colon never saw the second inning.
“He wasn’t feeling good, but wanted to give it a shot,” Molitor said. “But I thought it was best to get him out.”
Minnesota took a 4-2 lead in the third, on a two-run double by Rosario, who had four of the Twins’ 17 hits.
RBI hits by Encarnacion and Jay Bruce in the third inning tied it at 4-4.
Both starting pitchers were gone early. In his one inning, Colon gave up two runs and three hits with one strikeout and no walks. Tomlin pitched 3 2/3 innings and was tagged for four runs and eight hits with three strikeouts and no walks.
“They put up good at bats, don’t strike out, hit it the other way. They can do a lot of things. That’s why they are in a position to go to the postseason,” said Tomlin.
NOTES: Indians OF Lonnie Chisenhall is expected to be available to play Wednesday night. Chisenhall hasn’t appeared in a game since Sept. 14 because of a strained right calf, the second time this season he has been sidelined by that injury. ... Cleveland DH Edwin Encarnacion’s two-run single in the first inning gave him 101 RBIs for the season. He becomes the fifth player in Indians history with 100 RBIs and 100 walks in the same season. The last to do it was Travis Hafner in 2007. ... Twins OF Byron Buxton’s stolen base in the sixth inning was his 23rd consecutive successful steal, a franchise record. ... Jorge Polanco is third on the Twins’ career list for RBIs as a shortstop. Polanco has 72, trailing only Roy Smalley, who had 94 in 1979 and 77 in 1978. ... LHP Adalberto Mejia, who will start for the Twins on Wednesday night, has a 1.86 ERA in two career starts vs. Cleveland.