By Rhett Bollinger and William Kosileski
CLEVELAND -- Thanks to a dominant outing from right-hander Carlos Carrasco and three home runs from the offense, the Indians reached 100 wins on the season, defeating the Twins, 5-2, in Thursday's series finale at Progressive Field.
The victory for the Indians marked only the third time in club history that they have reached 100 wins in a single season. The only other 100-win seasons in Tribe history came in 1995, when it went 100-44 in a strike-shortened season, and in 1954, when it won a franchise-record 111 games. Both teams ended up reaching the World Series.
"I'm not downplaying it, because it's really cool," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I'm proud of our guys. It's meaningful. It means that we won a lot of games. But we have a lot more -- hopefully -- a lot more baseball ahead of us. But I think it's OK to take a moment and be proud of what the guys have done."
With the win, the Indians maintain a one-game lead over the Astros for the top spot in the American League. Houston defeated Boston -- the team the Astros will face in the ALDS should the standings hold -- 12-2 on Thursday night. In the case of a tie with Houston, Cleveland holds the tiebreaker after winning the season series, meaning the Indians' magic number to clinch home-field advantage through the ALCS is 2.
"We need to keep winning because Houston is," Francona said.
In addition, the Indians now trail the Dodgers, who had the day off, by two games for the best record in baseball. For the Indians to earn home-field advantage through the World Series, if they were to make it that far, they would have to win out and the Dodgers would have to lose out. Los Angeles holds the tiebreaker over Cleveland.
Indians center fielder Jason Kipnis clubbed a go-ahead, two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning off Twins reliever Trevor Hildenberger to break a scoreless tie. The shot was Kipnis' first home run since coming off the disabled list on Sept. 17 and his 12th overall on the season.
"I think the more at-bats he gets, the closer he gets to being himself," Francona said of Kipnis. "He's taking more good swings. Being in the outfield, every time he goes out there, I think his confidence is going to grow."
Indians catcher Roberto Perez also added a two-run shot -- his eighth homer of the year -- in the seventh inning off Minnesota reliever Alan Busenitz, and Jay Bruce connected for a solo homer in the eighth off Nik Turley. Bruce's big fly set a new career-high in home runs for him (35).
That would be more than enough for Carrasco, who picked up his 18th win of the season after 8 1/3 scoreless innings. He held the Twins to six hits and one walk, and struck out a season-high 14.
"He's huge for us," Perez said of Carrasco. "He was consistent all year long. … He's pretty consistent with his work ethic, and every five days he gets the ball, he wants the ball, and he's one of our leaders out there in the field. I'm happy for him."
Both of Minnesota's runs came in the ninth, when Mitch Garver drove in two with a triple off the wall in right against Indians reliever Nick Goody.
The Twins have clinched the second AL Wild Card spot, and their opponent for the game on Tuesday will be either the Yankees or the Red Sox. Boston holds a three-game lead over New York in the AL East after both teams lost on Thursday night.
"Ervin did a nice job on our end," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "We talked about it before and how we wanted it to go. We thought five innings would be a good amount depending on pitches. It was a nice tuneup performance from him. Hopefully it gets him ready for Tuesday."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Kip breaks the tie: The Indians could not get anything going against Santana through the first five innings, but when Twins manager Paul Molitor replaced Santana with Hildenberger in the top of the sixth, the Tribe wasted no time. After Francisco Lindor led off the inning with a double, Kipnis hit a 2-1 changeup over the heart of the plate to the seats in right to score the game's first runs. Per Statcast™, Kipnis' homer had an exit velocity of 97 mph and had a 29-degree launch angle.
"Not that I'm going to be hot going into the playoffs," Kipnis said, "but just that I'm able to be where I want to be and able to compete, to not be in a funk or to be overthinking at the plate, to be able to just go out and have my swing where I want it to be, it's nice to be able to add depth to this lineup, to contribute where I can."
Cookie doesn't crumble: With the game still scoreless in the top of the fifth, the Twins threatened to take the lead after a pair of singles put runners at the corners with two outs. Jason Castro led off the inning with a base hit to center before Carrasco recorded back-to-back punchouts. The next batter, Zack Granite, grounded a single to center, allowing Castro to take third. But Carrasco was able to stand both runners as he struck out Ehire Adrianza on a 1-2 curveball in the dirt to end the inning.
"I think he feels really good about himself," Francona said of Carrasco. "Like I said, it's the first time he's thrown 200 innings, but he looks like it's the first day of the season. I think that's a credit to his ability to work and his routines. It was fun to watch today." More >
"I'm very excited, but I take it day by day. To me, I'm going to take it like another game. I'm not going to think about it. I'm just going out there and pitch my game. I'm not going to change my approach." -- Santana, on starting in the AL Wild Card Game
"It's something special for all of us. It's a big accomplishment, but we all understand that's not our goal. Our goal was to make it to the playoffs. And then once we're in the playoffs, go as deep as we can in the playoffs. It's fun, winning a lot of games. That's at least 100 days in the season that we're playing music." -- Lindor, on reaching 100 wins
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Carrasco's fifth-inning strikeout of Garver was his 217th recorded this season. That marks a new career high for a single season for the Tribe starter.
With his leadoff double in the sixth, Lindor joined teammate Jose Ramirez as the only Indians hitters this season to reach 80 extra-base hits. Lindor and Ramirez are the first pair of Tribe teammates to reach at least 80 extra-base hits in the same season since Albert Belle and Manny Ramirez did so in 1996.
"We're thrilled they're our guys," Francona said. "They're two really impactful offensive players and both really good defenders. We're really thrilled about that."
WHAT'S NEXT Twins: After a 10-game road trip, the Twins head home for the final series of the regular season at Target Field against the Tigers, with the opener set for Friday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Right-hander Kyle Gibson (12-10, 5.02 ERA) starts, and he's 7-2 with a 3.36 ERA over his past 11 starts dating back to late July.
Indians: Right-hander Trevor Bauer (16-9, 4.28 ERA) will take the mound in Friday's 7:10 p.m. ET series opener against the White Sox at Progressive Field. In his past 13 games (12 starts), Bauer has gone 9-1 with a 2.69 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 77 innings.