Gomes' three-run homer gives Indians a Wild Card lift
Tribe gains ground on all four contenders for postseason berth
MINNEAPOLIS -- This is the place where the Indians completed a miracle and it is now where they are asking for another.
A year ago, Cleveland partied on the final day of the season at Target Field, celebrating a furious and improbable run to the American League Wild Card Game. With their 7-3 win over the Twins on Saturday night, the Indians are now hoping that the next eight days will present an opportunity to again don goggles and spray champagne.
"I was thinking about it today, how we celebrated that game here," Indians catcher Yan Gomes said. "It would have been nice to be celebrating again here, but that's not going to happen. It's going to be at home and that will be even better."
Gomes stated that matter of factly, even though the odds are stacked against the Tribe.
The club did its part on Saturday to keep the dream alive.
Gomes powered the offense with a home run, three hits and four RBIs to help guide Cleveland to its fourth win in the past five games. Rookie left-hander T.J. House was solid for five innings against Minnesota before bowing out and allowing the Indians' bullpen to piece together four frames to seal the victory.
The win proved well-timed, too.
Before the conclusion of Cleveland's game in the Twin Cities, the Tribe's four main adversaries in the race for a spot in this fall's Wild Card Game all lost. The A's, Royals, Mariners and Yankees were each dealt a defeat, helping the Indians (80-74) cut their deficit to 3 1/2 games behind Kansas City for the second Wild Card spot and four games back of Oakland for the top Wild Card seed.
Indians manager Terry Francona was not aware that the other four teams lost until following Saturday's game against the Twins.
"Well, that's good," Francona said with a smirk. "That certainly helps."
Of course, the Tribe's current position in the standings does not account for the fact that the club has a 4-2 lead on the Royals in the 10th inning of a suspended game, which is set to be finished in Cleveland on Monday. That will take place before the AL Central rivals battle in a crucial three-game series that will likely impact the postseason picture.
With the season winding to a close, Francona said there is only one approach to take.
"The only thing I really know is we need to show up tomorrow and try to win," Francona said. "I don't know what else we can do. I'm looking forward to it. It's exciting. Every day means so much, and every time you win it means that much more. So, just keep playing until they make you go home."
House had a more unique way of describing the mentality Cleveland needs to adopt from here on out.
"You've got to hit it right in the face," House said. "Just punch it right back in the face and hopefully get a knockout."
Following a tough extra-inning loss on Friday, the Indians punched back in the best way possible.
All seven of Cleveland's runs came against Twins righty Trevor May and were scored with two outs. In the second inning, Mike Aviles delivered a two-run, two-out triple and Michael Bourn followed with a run-scoring single. Gomes then came through with an RBI single off May in the third before launching a laser of a three-run homer in the fifth.
Gomes' blast -- a towering line drive that cleared the 27-foot wall in right-center field -- gave him 20 long balls on the season. He matched a career best with four RBIs, giving him 70 on the year. Gomes joined Carlos Santana, Victor Martinez, Sandy Alomar Jr. and John Romano as the only catchers (at least 60 percent of their games behind the plate) with at least 20 homers, 60 runs and 70 RBIs in a single season.
Gomes, Santana and Michael Brantley each have at least 20 homers this season, giving Cleveland its first trio to accomplish that feat in a season since 2008.
"Those three, you're talking about the main part of our offense," Francona said. "They've pretty much gone out there every day, whether they're beat up or not, and keep producing. And we're going to need it down the last however many games we have."
House (4-3) earned the win after holding the Twins to two runs -- both scored on groundouts -- on six hits in five-plus innings of work. The lefty allowed consecutive singles to Joe Mauer and Kennys Vargas to open the sixth inning, but Zach McAllister came out of the bullpen and struck out the next three batters to quickly snuff out Minnesota's attempt at a rally.
McAllister went on to log two strong innings to help pave the way to the win.
"That was fantastic," House said. "He came in and got those two guys off the basepath and kept them from scoring, which kind of pulls more momentum our way again."
Momentum, after all, is precisely what the Indians need right now.
"We've been through it before," Gomes said. "We were at the same place last year. We've got to come out and win these ballgames. It's going to be pretty close. I know we've got experience in this kind of ballgame. We've just got to keep fighting."