CLEVELAND – While his teammates celebrated a wild-card clinch on Wednesday, Twins righthander Ervin Santana looked on.
Santana had to start on Thursday in the Twins’ final road game of the season, and he claimed he avoided indulging in the libations being passed around the visitor’s clubhouse in the moments after the Twins learned they were officially in the postseason.
Santana pitched on Thursday like someone who had a clear mind and a lot of sleep the night before. The righthander tossed five shutout innings before manager Paul Molitor removed him to preserve energy for his postseason start on Tuesday.
“I wanted to keep pitching,” said Santana, who threw 57 pitches, “but it was Mollie’s decision. He told me he didn’t want to use me too long.”
After Santana left, Trevor Hildenberger and Alan Busenitz each gave up two-run home runs as the Indians won 5-2 to reach 100 victories for the third time in franchise history. Cleveland finished 11-7 in the regular-season series.
The Twins hope their relievers will fare better than they did Thursday, but they will take the solid start from Santana, who has been the unquestioned staff ace all season.
Santana scattered four hits and walked one Thursday, lowering his ERA to 3.28. Coupled with a 16-8 record, he has the lowest ERA with that number of victories by a Twins pitcher since Johan Santana went 16-7 with a 2.87 ERA in 2005.
Ervin’s real name is Johan, but changed it many years ago because he believed the league wasn’t big enough for two Johan Santanas.
“’Everything was working how I wanted,” Ervin Santana said. “Location was good. Off-speed was good. I can’t complain.”
Santana was replaced by Hildenberger, who gave up a two-run home run to Jason Kipnis in the sixth. Roberto Perez hit a two-run homer off Busenitz in the seventh. And Jay Bruce homered off Nik Turley in the eighth.
Mitch Garver’s two-run triple helped the Twins avoid a shutout. They have not been shut out since Aug. 1.
The Twins finished the season with a 44-37 road record, their best mark since they also went 44-37 in 1991.
Carrasco on fire
The Twins started a lineup with several reserves a day after clinching a playoff berth, which played right into the hands of Cleveland righthander Carlos Carrasco.
Carrasco (18-6) left the mound with one out in the ninth after throwing 112 pitches. He shut out the Twins on six hits and one walk with a season-high 14 strikeouts — the fifth time he has hit double digits in strikeouts.
“Had a nice mix,” Molitor said. “Seemed like we had trouble identifying pitches.”
• Tickets for two potential Division Series games went on sale Thursday. Team president Dave St. Peter tweeted by the afternoon that demand was so high that the club expects crowds of 39,000 at Target Field for Games 3 and 4 of the ALDS on Oct. 8 and 9.
• The Twins are accepting donations all weekend at Target Field for hurricane relief in Puerto Rico. The Twins Wives Organization will accept nonperishable food, bottled water and cash donations outside Gates 6, 29 and 34 from the time gates open until the second inning. Three Twins players — Jose Berrios, Eddie Rosario and Kennys Vargas — are from Puerto Rico, and a fourth, Hector Santiago, also played for Puerto Rico during the World Baseball Classic.
• Catcher Chris Gimenez was hit on the left arm by a Nick Goody pitch in the ninth inning. He said he was sore but should not miss any time.