The Indians’ 10-game winning streak to close the season, a run that was punctuated Sunday with dancing and hugs on Target Field’s infield and champagne in the clubhouse, didn’t happen by accident, manager Terry Francona said.
“We had to,” said the first-year Cleveland manager. “There was no choice, or we would have had to go home.”
Now they get to go back to Cleveland, but for an opportunity that seemed out of reach two weeks ago: They will play host to the American League wild-card game on Wednesday, with a one-game chance to advance to the ALDS against Boston. Sunday’s 5-1 victory over the Twins, the Indians’ 13th in 19 games against Minnesota this year, gave them 92 wins, or one more than Tampa Bay and Texas, which both won Sunday to force a Monday tiebreaker for the second wild card.
Nick Swisher was in the middle of the postgame celebration, fitting because he was in the middle of Sunday’s win, too, rocketing the eighth pitch of the game from Scott Diamond into the left field flower pots to give Cleveland all the runs it needed against a feeble offense. The Indians collected two more runs when the Twins committed three errors in the sixth inning, and Carlos Santana doubled home Cleveland’s final run in the seventh.
Then it was up to the Indians pitching staff, which was more than adequate to finish off Cleveland’s first four-game sweep in Minnesota in the franchises’ history.
Ubaldo Jimenez gave up leadoff single in the first inning, then retired 17 straight Twins to earn his fourth consecutive victory, reduce his September ERA to 1.09, and capture Cleveland’s first postseason berth since 2007, setting off the second champagne celebration in Target Field’s visitors clubhouse in five days. Detroit clinched its third straight AL Central crown here on Wednesday.
The Indians are the first team since the 1971 Orioles to end their season on a winning streak that long; that team won the World Series. It’s a big reversal for a franchise that went 68-94 last season.
“I’m so crazy about this group of guys,” Francona said. “From ownership to baseball [operations] to the clubhouse guys, to be able to stand here and say the Indians are going to the playoffs ... I’m so proud of everybody.”
Rangers, Rays both win, too
Texas 6, L.A. Angels 2: Craig Gentry had a key two-run single and Geovany Soto had a tiebreaking RBI double and a solo homer for the host Rangers.
“They showed heart, fight, gut — any other adjective you want to find,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said.
The Rangers (91-71), who began September with the AL West lead before a 5-15 slide, added game No. 163 to the regular season. They will play host to Tampa Bay on Monday night in baseball’s first wild-card tiebreaker since 2007.
“You can’t say enough. Just the fight, the character of this team,” Gentry said. “From being about as low as we could possibly be and almost everybody probably counting us out, and to come home and play the way we have.”
Tampa Bay 7, Toronto 6: The visiting Rays scored six runs in the first inning and then held off the Blue Jays.
Rays manager Joe Maddon was ejected in the seventh and the Blue Jays put the go-ahead run at the plate in the eighth and ninth innings. Fernando Rodney got for four shaky outs for his 37th save.
Matt Moore (17-4) won consecutive starts for the first time in more than two months.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.