MINNEAPOLIS — Reliever Joe Smith struck out pinch hitter Oswaldo Arcia to stop a ninth-inning rally and the Cleveland Indians won their seventh straight game, holding off the Minnesota Twins, 6-5, Thursday night to keep their edge in the AL wild-card race.
The Twins scored four runs in the ninth and had runners on first and second before Smith got the final out.
Cleveland leads Texas by one game for the second wild-card spot. Each team has three games left in the regular season. Tampa Bay is on top in the chase, one game ahead of the Indians.
Yan Gomes hit a towering two-run homer and Michael Brantley added three hits and two RBIs from the leadoff spot.
Bryan Shaw (7-3) picked up the victory in relief of Zach McAllister by getting five key outs over the fifth and sixth innings.
The Indians were cruising with a 6-1 lead until closer Chris Perez entered in the ninth.
But Alex Presley hit an RBI triple, Josmil Pinto hit a two-run homer, and suddenly the Twins were within one. Smith gave up an infield single and a walk before fanning Arcia on three pitches for his third save.
McAllister had a shutout intact despite allowing runners on in every inning. After a walk and a single with one out in the fifth, Shaw was summoned and got Ryan Doumit on a double-play grounder.
McAllister gave up six hits and two walks while striking out three. This was the righthander’s shortest start in September, and the 68 pitches were his second-lowest total of 24 starts this season.
Shaw is 5-0 in 13 appearances this month, and hasn’t permitted a run in 15⅓ innings.
The Indians caught quite a break with their September schedule, facing the teams with the three worst records in the league in 14 of their final 17 games: the Twins, White Sox, and Astros.
The Twins have won a mere four of their last 21 home games since mid-August. They’ve lost 17 of 22 overall. Doumit’s two-out single in the seventh finally put the Twins on the board.
The Twins had to watch opponents celebrate division-clinching wins in each of the last two series, in Oakland and then Detroit here in their own ballpark. They’ll have to win a couple of games this weekend to prevent another party at Target Field.
Ryan Raburn singled in the fourth and took second on a balk by Twins starter Andrew Albers (2-5). Albers almost made a sliding catch of Asdrubal Cabrera’s bunt in front of the mound, but the ball leaked out of his glove. The throw was in time, but first baseman Chris Colabello missed it as it sailed into right field for an error, and Raburn scored.
Then Gomes sent a fly ball bouncing off the left-field facade for a 3-0 edge.