By Rhett Bollinger and August Fagerstrom
CLEVELAND -- The Twins kept their hopes for a late postseason push alive with a strong effort from Kyle Gibson and a three-run double from Torii Hunter in a 7-1 win over the Indians in the first game of a doubleheader on Wednesday at Progressive Field.
With the victory, the Twins (82-75) moved to one game back of the Angels for the second American League Wild Card spot. They also trail the Astros by a half-game. The Angels play the A's on Wednesday night, while the Astros play the Mariners. The Indians are one loss or a win by the Angels from being eliminated from postseason contention. With their 82nd win, the Twins also guaranteed themselves their first winning record since 2010.
"It's a big win for us today," Gibson said. "When you get to this point of the season, any time you can put up some zeros and the offense goes out there and does what they do, it's a good day. It's not done yet today, but it was fun."
Gibson entered with a 6.99 ERA in six career starts against Cleveland, including a season-low 2 2/3-innings outing in his previous start, but came up with a gutsy performance to lead the Twins to a much-needed win. The right-hander scattered four hits and two walks across six scoreless innings while tying a career high with nine strikeouts. Gibson remains a candidate to pitch on short rest in the regular-season finale on Sunday, if the game has postseason implications.
He outpitched Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco, who was coming off a one-hit shutout with 15 strikeouts against the Royals. Carrasco lasted three-plus innings, surrendering five runs on five hits and two walks. Carrasco finishes the season by going 14-12 with a 3.63 ERA and 216 strikeouts in 183 2/3 innings.
"For the whole year, I think it was great," Carrasco said. "Everything that I did from the beginning to the end. I think everything that I did, the hard work that I put with Mickey Callaway, the guys from the rotation that I looked how they work, especially [Corey] Kluber, I just learned from the beginning of the season to now. That's what I take [away]."
Right-hander Mike Pelfrey got the start in Game 2 for the Twins, while the Indians countered with right-hander Cody Anderson.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Hunter clears 'em: The Twins opened the fourth with three straight hits, including an RBI single from Trevor Plouffe. A walk from Eddie Rosario loaded the bases and set the stage for a three-run double down the left-field line from Hunter. After a walk from Eduardo Nunez, Carrasco was pulled.
Hello, goodbye: Indians manager Terry Francona decided to throw Carrasco in the first game of the doubleheader, because he gave them a better chance to eat innings and save the bullpen for game two. Carrasco, though, couldn't make it out of the fourth inning, after he allowed the first six batters of that frame to reach, letting in five runs in the process.
"I felt good today, I just think I missed a couple bad, and that hurt," Carrasco said. "When you miss bad, it hurts. I was supposed to throw inside to Torii Hunter and I just went middle and he got the base hit, three runs."
Mauer, Buxton go deep: The Twins scored early against Carrasco, as Joe Mauer crushed a solo shot in the first for his 10th homer of the year. It was the first homer allowed by Carrasco since Sept. 14. Mauer also became the eighth Twins player to reach 10 homers this season, which is the most since a franchise-record nine players reached double digits in homers in 2004. Center fielder Byron Buxton, ranked as the No. 1 overall prospect by MLBPipeline.com, added a solo homer of his own in the ninth. Buxton, who also had an RBI single in the seventh, has now homered in consecutive starts after going homerless through his first 40 games.
"Any time the offense gets you runs early you appreciate it," Gibson said. "Joe got into that. I'm not sure if people on TV could see, but the wind was blowing in pretty hard from right-center. He put it a charge into that one so it was pretty awesome."
One is the loneliest number: Cleveland's only run of the game came in the seventh inning, after Gibson's day was finished. Jerry Sands led off the frame against reliever Blaine Boyer with a single up the middle, and Jesus Aguilar did the same in the following at-bat. Sands later scored on a Jason Kipnis single, but the Tribe's rally came to a halt with an inning-ending double play by Jose Ramirez.
"I think it's significant. No doubt about it. The thing about this club is we don't downplay a win. We celebrate each win, obviously. Everybody knows about the dance parties. But it's not a smoke-and-mirrors thing. We want to celebrate each win. To guarantee ourselves a winning season is big for us. But we have a lot of other things going on." -- Gibson, on the Twins guaranteeing themselves their first winning record since 2010
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Lindor's stolen base in the first inning gave him an even 10 steals on the year. The last American League rookie to have at least 10 steals, 10 homers, 20 doubles, 100 hits and a .300 average as a rookie was Angels outfielder Mike Trout (2012). Yasiel Puig also accomplished the feat for the Dodgers in '13. Lindor is the first Indians rookie to do so since 1929 (Earl Averill).
WHAT'S NEXT Twins: Right-hander Tyler Duffey is set to start in the series finale on Thursday. Duffey has been on an impressive stretch, going 5-0 with a 2.17 ERA over his last eight starts. He's struck out 46 over 49 2/3 innings over that span.
Indians: Right-hander Trevor Bauer makes his return to the Indians rotation to wrap up the four-game set at Progressive Field with a scheduled 7:10 p.m. ET first pitch. Bauer was moved to the bullpen after a second-half spiral that culminated in a six-run, three-inning performance against the Tigers on Sept. 13. Since then, he appeared in just one game out of the bullpen, throwing a scoreless inning against the White Sox on Sept. 19.
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast.
August Fagerstrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.