MINNEAPOLIS — The surging Cleveland Indians earned their first postseason berth since 2007, beating the Minnesota Twins 5-1 Sunday to clinch an AL wild card as Ubaldo Jimenez tied a career high with 13 strikeouts.
Nick Swisher homered in the first inning for the Indians, who became the first major league team to win its final 10 regular-season games since the 1971 Baltimore Orioles finished with 11 straight victories, according to STATS.
Cleveland will host Tampa Bay or Texas in the one-game AL wild card playoff on Wednesday night.
Jimenez (13-9) gave up one run and five hits in 6 2/3 innings for the Indians, who became the first team to sweep seven four-game series in one regular season since the 1943 St. Louis Cardinals. After the final out, Cleveland players mobbed each other on the diamond in a jubilant celebration.
Scott Diamond (6-13) gave up four runs — two earned — and seven hits for the Twins (66-96).
Carlos Santana and Yan Gomes also drove in runs for the Indians, who entered the game with a one-game lead over Tampa Bay and Texas. If the Indians had lost Sunday and the Rays and Rangers won, two days of tiebreaker games would have been needed to determine the wild cards.
Jimenez and the Indians wanted no part of that.
After giving up a leadoff single to Alex Presley in the first, the right-hander retired 17 straight. He was on a run of five strikeouts in a row when he walked Presley with two outs in the sixth and gave up a single to Brian Dozier.
But Jimenez threw a called third strike past Trevor Plouffe to end the threat. Jimenez went 4-0 with a 1.09 ERA and 51 strikeouts in six September starts.
Swisher’s two-run homer landed just over the flower bed in left field in the first inning and the Indians tacked on two more in the sixth thanks in part to throwing errors by shortstop Pedro Florimon and Diamond.
Cleveland lost at least 93 games in three of the previous four seasons. But they increased their wins total by 24 games this year behind a strong pitching staff and Terry Francona, a rejuvenated manager who has rebounded after a messy end to his tenure in Boston in 2011. Their 21-6 record in September is the best in the majors, and they feasted on a soft schedule.
The Indians won 15 of their last 17 games, beating up on the White Sox, Royals, Astros and Twins along the way.
Minnesota has have lost at least 93 games for three straight seasons, and manager Ron Gardenhire’s future with the team is uncertain. In the final year of his contract, Gardenhire said before the game he would like to return. A decision could come as soon as Monday.
The Twins offense reached double digits in strikeouts for a game for the 66th time this season. The previous franchise high for a season was 26. … Indians 2B Jason Kipnis stole his 30th base of the season in the seventh inning, his second straight season to reach that plateau.
Source: Associated Press