The race for the American League wild cards is growing incredibly tense during the season’s final weekend. But Pedro Hernandez removed most of the tension from Target Field on Friday night.
The Twins lefthander gave up six runs and recorded only five outs, and the Indians were able to spend the rest of the night watching the scoreboard while going through the motions of a 12-6 victory over the Twins. With the victory, and Tampa Bay’s loss in Toronto, Cleveland moved into a tie with the Rays for the two wild-card spots, while Texas, which defeated the Angels, remains one game back with two to play.
The Indians can clinch a postseason berth Saturday with a victory and a Rangers loss.
The Twins couldn’t do much to spoil their pennant drive Friday, not after five of the first seven hitters Hernandez faced whacked hits, four of them for extra bases. The Indians added three more runs in the second off Hernandez and Shairon Martis, leaving the announced 24,074 — the smallest non-April, non-makeup crowd in the stadium this year — with little to cheer for.
“Just a bad night,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “They were all over him right from the get-go.”
By the time it was over, the Twins had given up more than 10 runs for the 10th time this season — something the Twins have done just once all year.
Pedro Florimon homered in the fifth inning, and the Twins added three more runs in the sixth to make it 9-6, but Cleveland kept adding runs against unlucky Liam Hendriks. The Australian righthander became the first Twins pitcher to strike out more than seven hitters in a game this season, racking up eight in 4⅔ innings of relief. But he gave up five runs, too.
Two of them scored when Ryan Doumit’s sliding catch of Mike Aviles’ bloop to right bounced out of his glove, and two more scored on Drew Stubbs’ two-run homer in the ninth, after the Twins believed Stubbs had not checked his swing on a 2-2 fastball.
“He actually struck the guy out. He just didn’t get the check-swing call,” Gardenhire said. “But you can’t blame the umpires when you play the way we do.”
Pinto injures hand
Josmil Pinto’s strong first month may have come to a premature end Friday night.
The rookie catcher, who has impressed the Twins with his opposite-field power and overall hitting ability, was hit on his right hand by a Corey Kluber pitch in the fourth inning, and he was removed from the game once the inning ended.
Pinto underwent X-rays, but no break was found. “Just a little bruise,” Gardenhire said. “It was scary. It was barking on him. But he should be fine.”
But with only two games remaining, it’s possible the bruise on his throwing hand could keep him out of the lineup this weekend.
• One thing the Twins have accomplished this weekend: they knocked Chris Perez out of his role as Indians closer, at least temporarily. After giving up four runs in the ninth inning Thursday, Perez and manager Terry Francona agreed he shouldn’t be closing while these games are so critical to Cleveland’s postseason chances. Francona said he will use several relievers, depending upon the situation. Justin Masterson, trying to work his way back from an oblique injury, is one candidate, along with Joe Smith, Marc Rzepczynski, Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen.
• Twins play-by-play man Dick Bremer has a busy weekend, and not just because he’s handing Fox Sports’ regional coverage of Saturday’s game with Eric Karros. Bremer will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Upper Midwest Regional Emmy board at their banquet on Saturday night, and after Sunday’s season finale, he will be inducted into the Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame.