Century mark: Indians beat Twins for 100th win
CLEVELAND — The number is big, round and historic.
The Indians aren’t satisfied with 100 wins. They aren’t stopping there, either.
Carlos Carrasco struck out 14, Jason Kipnis and Roberto Perez hit two-run homers and Cleveland joined an elite group with its 100th victory, 5-2 over the understandably sluggish, Twins who celebrated their wild-card berth earlier Thursday.
By improving to 31-3 since Aug. 24, the 2017 Indians joined the 1954 (111) and 1995 (100) teams to reach the century mark.
“That’s cool,” said Kipnis. “First, it’s a lot better than losing 100. I’ve been on that team before, and I think it was what, ’11 or ’12 where we went 5-25 in August. I’ve been on the teams where no matter what you do, you’re going to lose. This is one of those teams where no matter what you do, it feels like you’re going to win.”
The ’54 and ’95 teams both lost in the World Series, and after getting to Game 7 last year before losing to the Chicago Cubs, these Indians don’t care about any pre-October milestones — no matter how impressive.
“That’s not our goal,” said All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor. “It’s something amazing, special. It will be there for a long time. We’re just enjoying it and focusing on our daily job, which is to win.”
The Indians are the seventh team to reach 100 wins in the past decade.
Carrasco (18-6) dominated a Minnesota lineup loaded with reserves and September call-ups playing because the Twins rested several regulars hours after clinching a wild-card spot.
Carrasco allowed six hits — all singles — in 8 1/3 innings and improved to 3-0 with a 0.92 ERA against the Twins this season. The right-hander also moved into a tie for the league lead in wins with teammate Corey Kluber and Kansas City’s Jason Vargas.
A year ago, Carrasco was nursing a broken hand and watched the postseason as the Indians won their first pennant since 1997. This year, he’ll be slotted in behind Kluber, giving Cleveland a lethal 1-2 starting punch.
“He’s a bona fide ace in our mind,” Kipnis said. “The guy goes out there, and when he’s on, he’s pretty lights out and he’s pretty hard to hit. He’s a perfect complement to Corey, back-to-back guys that just have a plan, that know what they want to do and get it done. It takes usually more than one swing to score runs off them, and that’s what you want out of pitchers.”
Kipnis, who has moved from second base to center field, connected for a two-run homer — his first since Aug. 18 — in the sixth inning off Trevor Hildenberger (3-3) as the Indians stayed ahead of the Astros for the AL’s best record and home-field advantage until the Series. Cleveland also holds the tiebreaker over Houston.
Minnesota’s Ervin Santana tuned up for his start in next Tuesday’s wild-card game with five shutout innings. Manager Paul Molitor lifted the right-hander after 57 pitches, preserving him for either the Yankees or Red Sox.
“I’m very excited, but I have four more days until I pitch again,” Santana said. “I wanted to keep pitching, but it was Molly’s decision and I respect that.”
The Twins clinched their first postseason berth since 2010 at around 12:15 a.m., grabbing the second wild-card spot when Los Angeles lost in Chicago. There was a raucous, champagne-spraying celebration as the Twins toasted becoming the first team to make the playoffs after losing 100 games the previous season.
The party moved outside Progressive Field, so it wasn’t surprising that a few Minnesota players, some wearing sunglasses and dragging along, wandered in as late as 11:20 a.m. for the 12:10 p.m. start.
Molitor gave regulars Brian Dozier, Byron Buxton, Eduardo Escobar and Eddie Rosario the day off.
“We’ve really been grinding for more than a month now, so I had to do what was best for my guys,” Molitor said. “I know the Indians’ record and what they’re going for, but I wanted to give some guys a day to relax.”
Perez said it’s been difficult to focus with his family in Puerto Rico dealing with the devastation from Hurricane Maria. He has been in touch with his mother and others.
“I’m just glad they’re alive,” he said.
Perez wore a T-shirt that said “Puerto Rico, Se Levanta,” which means “Raise Up, Puerto Rico.”
Lindor had a pair of doubles, giving him 81 extra-base hits. Lindor and 2B Jose Ramirez are the first Cleveland teammates with at least 80 extra-base hits since Manny Ramirez and Albert Belle in 1996.
Twins: 3B Miguel Sano (left shin), who has been on the disabled list since Aug. 20, was scheduled to work out at Target Field. Molitor said the All-Star was a “long shot” for the wild-card game.
Twins: RHP Kyle Gibson puts his six-game winning streak on the line as Minnesota opens a Series against Detroit.
Indians: RHP Trevor Bauer, 9-4 with a 4.08 ERA at Progressive Field, starts the opener of a three-game set against the visiting White Sox.