Carrasco in Control as Cleveland Claims 100th Win; Indians 5, Twins 2

The Indians and Carlos Carrasco took full advantage of a Minnesota Twins lineup missing plenty of its regulars on Thursday as Cleveland rolled to a 5-2 victory and its 100th win of the 2017 season.

Less than 12 hours after the Twins celebrated a remarkable run to the postseason when they claimed the final playoff spot in the American League, Minnesota returned to the field looking to deal the Indians their first series loss since July 31-August 1 in Boston. A lineup full of bench pieces and late season call-ups would not be up to the task as Carrasco shut the Twins down in his final playoff tune up.

Carrasco’s start was not without some foot traffic to worry about, but he several times took matters into his own hands to keep the Twins from finding the scoreboard. He walked Jorge Polanco on four straight pitches with two outs in the first, but struck out cleanup hitter Kennys Vargas to end the inning. Max Kepler led off the second with a single, but a fielder’s choice and a pair of swinging strikeouts got him out of the inning with a runner still standing at first.

The Indians threatened for the first time in the bottom of the second against Ervin Santana, who was pitching on short rest to get him lined up to make the start on Tuesday in the Twins’ Wild Card Game against an AL East opponent yet to be determined (New York or Boston). Edwin Encarnacion singled to start the inning and moved to second on a one-out base hit by Carlos Santana. Lonnie Chisenhall struck out for the second out and Encarnacion was thrown out at third trying to advance on a ball that got away from catcher Jason Castro.

Kipnis – Jason Miller/Getty Images

Carrasco allowed another base runner in the third, when Ehire Adrianza singled to right with two down, but Polanco grounded to first to strand another runner. He had to work a little harder two innings later, when Castro singled to start the fifth and Zach Granite singled with two down, but Carrasco notched his third whiff of the inning by striking out Adrianza to leave runners on the corners.

The Twins’ Santana dodged three scoring threats by the Tribe through five innings before turning the game over to Trevor Hildenberger and the Minnesota bullpen. The Indians took advantage of the new pitcher on the mound as Francisco Lindor doubled to left-center and Jason Kipnis homered to right, putting Cleveland on top, 2-0.

Carrasco struck out three batters again in the seventh after a Robbie Grossman single to right to start the inning. Grossman moved to second on a passed ball with former Indians catcher Chris Gimenez at the plate, but Carrasco K’d his ex-teammate along with Mitch Garver and Niko Goodrum to get out of another inning.

Alan Busenitz took over on the mound for the bottom of the seventh and the Indians got to him for a pair of insurance runs. After Santana flied to right to start the inning, Greg Allen reached on a single to third. Roberto Perez sent the third fastball that he saw up and in up and over the wall in right for the Indians’ second two-run home run of the afternoon, pushing the Tribe’s lead to 4-0.

Carrasco came back out for the eighth, adding two more strikeouts to his tally to give him 13 on the day while leaving him one out short of 200 innings of work on the season. Jay Bruce delivered the Indians’ third homer of the game in the bottom half of the frame, as his two-out drive to deep right was his 35th of the season and his sixth with the Tribe, giving Cleveland a 5-0 lead.

Carrasco returned for the ninth to face the switch-hitting Vargas. After getting ahead 0-2, he fell behind with three straight pitches out of the zone. His last one to Vargas was a called strike three, giving him an even 200 innings worked on the year and 14 strikeouts on the afternoon. He left to a loud ovation as Craig Breslow entered in relief. He would give up a single to Kepler before Grossman struck out for the second out. Nick Goody came on and plunked Gimenez before giving up a triple over Tyler Naquin in right to end the shutout on the two-run three-base hit, but Goodrum flied to center to give the game its final 5-2 score.

The Indians (100-59) won their tenth consecutive series and are now 14-0-3 in series since the first trading deadline, when they dropped a pair of games in Boston to the Red Sox. They improved their lead for the top record in the AL to 1.5 games, with Houston playing in Boston later in the day in the first of four games pitting the Astros and Red Sox against one another. Holding the tie-breaker over the Astros, the Indians’ magic number was reduced to two games to clinch home field advantage throughout the AL bracket. The 100th win of the season united the 2017 squad with the 1995 Indians (100) and 1954 club (111) as the third group in franchise history to reach the 100-win plateau.

The Twins dropped to 83-76 with the loss and finished the season 6-3 against the Indians at Progressive Field.

Carrasco - Jason Miller/Getty Images
Carrasco – Jason Miller/Getty Images

Carrasco (18-6) joined Corey Kluber and Kansas City’s Jason Vargas as the third AL pitcher to win 18 games on the year. He came two outs away from another complete game, but it took nothing away from a strong final start to his regular season. In eight and one-third scoreless innings of work, he allowed six hits and a walk while striking out 14.

Santana took a no-decision after another good start against Cleveland. He worked five scoreless innings, allowing four hits and striking out one. He allowed just one earned run against the Indians in 24 innings this season. Hildenberger dropped to 3-3 with the loss after allowing the first two Indians runs of the day in an inning of work.

The Chicago White Sox will come to town for the final three games of the regular season, beginning with Friday’s 7:10 PM ET first pitch. Trevor Bauer (16-9, 4.28 ERA) will make his final start ahead of the postseason, while the White Sox had not yet announced formally a starter for the evening contest.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

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