CLEVELAND (AP) — The Minnesota Twins missed a chance to clinch a playoff spot on their own Wednesday night as Danny Salazar gave Cleveland’s brain trust more to consider with a strong start and Yan Gomes homered, lifting the Indians to a 4-2 win.
Minnesota could still earn an AL wild-card spot and its first postseason trip since 2010 if the Los Angeles Angels lose later in Chicago to the White Sox.
The Indians improved to 30-3 since Aug. 24 and stayed one game ahead of Houston for the best record in the AL and home-field advantage until the World Series.
The turnaround Twins made it interesting in the ninth, pulling within 4-2 on Jorge Polanco’s two-run homer with one out. But closer Cody Allen stopped the comeback and Minnesota’s players hustled into the clubhouse to watch the Angels.
Cleveland scored two runs off Adalberto Mejia (4-7), who hit Gomes with a pitch and the bases loaded in the fourth to force in a run. Gomes later connected for his 14th homer to make it 4-0.
Mike Clevinger (12-5) replaced Salazar in the fifth and got his first win in relief this season.
The Twins came in needing just one win to grab the AL’s second wild-card position — the New York Yankees already have the other — and complete a remarkable one-season reversal after losing 103 games in 2016.
Minnesota could be the first team to lose at least 100 games and make the playoffs the following year.
Before the game, attendants in Minnesota’s clubhouse stashed away cases of beer and some champagne for a potential celebration.
Salazar allowed one hit and struck out nine in 4 2-3 shutout innings of his last — and perhaps most important — start of the regular season. Manager Terry Francona lifted the right-hander one out before he qualified for the win, a curious move because Salazar was dominating.
Salazar isn’t guaranteed a spot on Cleveland’s postseason roster, but he made any decision not to include him a little tougher. He’s had a disappointing season, which included a lengthy stint in the minors to work out some issues.
Clevinger will pitch out of the bullpen in October, and Francona may have wanted to get him into a situation like he might face in the playoffs.
Edwin Encarnacion picked up his 104th RBI in the first inning and the Indians made it 2-0 in the fourth when Mejia plunked Gomes.
A throwing error by Minnesota third baseman Eduardo Escobar gave the Indians a 3-0 lead in the fifth.
Twins: 3B Miguel Sano (left shin stress reaction) took 60 swings at Target Field, raising the possibility he could be on the playoff roster. The first-time All-Star has been on the disabled list since Aug. 20.
Indians: OF Michael Brantley’s postseason hopes took a positive turn. The All-Star did some running Wednesday in a simulated game and could be playing by the end of the week. Brantley’s chances to help the Indians in October were fading with every passing day, but the 30-year-old is going to make one last push. Brantley was having a strong comeback season after missing Cleveland’s World Series run in 2016 following two shoulder surgeries.
Carlos Carrasco goes for his 18th win in his final start of the regular season against Twins right-hander Ervin Santana, who is 2-0 with 16 strikeouts in three starts against the Central champions this season.
(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)