CLEVELAND -- In a potential American League Division Series preview, the Indians and Twins did not disappoint in their series opener on Tuesday night at Progressive Field. It was the Twins, however, that came out on top, as James Dozier's go-ahead three-run homer in the eighth led Minnesota to an
CLEVELAND -- In a potential American League Division Series preview, the Indians and Twins did not disappoint in their series opener on Tuesday night at Progressive Field. It was the Twins, however, that came out on top, as James Dozier's go-ahead three-run homer in the eighth led Minnesota to an 8-6 victory over Cleveland.
The win for the Twins drops their magic number to clinch an AL Wild Card berth to one with five games remaining. They hold a five-game lead over the Angels, who defeated the White Sox on Tuesday. If the Twins clinch the second Wild Card spot, they are likely to face the Yankees, who clinched home-field advantage in the AL Wild Card Game with their win over the Rays.
Minnesota can clinch its AL Wild Card berth on Wednesday with either a win over Cleveland or an Angels loss.
Dozier's shot -- No. 33 on the season for the second baseman -- came against Indians reliever Bryan Shaw. Per Statcast™, the homer had an exit velocity of 99 mph and traveled an estimated 376 feet to right.
As Dozier rounded first, he raised his right arm skyward before pumping his fist repeatedly in celebration. It also allowed him to reach 100 runs scored in four consecutive seasons.
• Dozier lifts Twins one step closer to WC
"The job there was to try to get the ball in the air and hopefully it splits the gap, but the last result is what happened when the ball snuck over the fence," Dozier said. "There was a lot of emotion running through there. The game was ours, in my opinion. I was pretty pumped up."
"When a guy hits a 97-mph cutter down for a home run to right, you kind of tip your hat," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Dozier's home run.
The Twins scored all of their other runs against Indians starter Josh Tomlin, who was credited with a no-decision after allowing eight hits and striking out three in 3 2/3 innings.
• Francona's pitching moves backfire in loss
"Uncharacteristically, [Tomlin] wasn't commanding like he can," Francona said. "He threw some pitches just in the wrong area, where he wasn't trying to. And then after that, I thought he was having a harder time putting guys away. He was getting ahead, he just couldn't put them away."
Eddie Rosario went 4-for-5 and finished with three RBIs, including his 27th home run of the season. Jorge Polanco added an RBI groundout, and Byron Buxton connected for an RBI single in the 9th.
The Indians' loss is only their third in their last 32 games. Their lead over the Astros for the top spot in the AL is now one game following Houston's win over Texas.
Twins starter Bartolo Colon left the game after the first inning due to an illness, forcing the Twins to use 10 pitchers, a club record for a nine-inning contest. Colon allowed two runs on three hits with one strikeout in the first inning. He has a 9.64 ERA in five September starts, making his addition to a potential postseason roster unlikely.
Indians designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion finished with three hits and four RBIs, including his 38th home run. Francisco Lindor added a sacrifice fly and Jay Bruce drove in a run with an RBI single.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Kepler's cannon: The Indians tied the score at 4 in the bottom of the third with two runs, but it could have been more. With runners on second and third and the Twins clinging to a one-run lead, Bruce lined a single to right off Twins reliever Tyler Duffey to easily score Jose Ramirez to tie it up. But Encarnacion ran through the stop sign by third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh and was nabbed at the plate by a strong throw from right fielder Max Kepler, who made his return after missing a game with a bruised left hip, sustained on a throw home on Saturday.
"I think Edwin saw the throw," Francona said. "He looked over his shoulder and saw the throw, and I think he thought it was a bad throw and kept going. And there was enough to get him."
Picking up Bartolo: After Colon's early exit, Twins manager Paul Molitor was forced to turn to his bullpen early -- and often. Molitor used nine relievers after Colon was removed, and they picked up the slack, working the final eight innings. In those eight frames, Minnesota's bullpen allowed four runs on eight hits while striking out five and only walking two. Matt Belisle closed out the game with a 1-2-3 ninth inning to earn his eighth save of the season.
"The bullpen, for the most part, got us through," Molitor said. "The Indians did what they do. They came back twice in the first three innings. They got up late, but we found a way to get it done. I give the guys a lot of credit."
"They can do a lot of things. They have some guys in that lineup that can pop the ball out of the ballpark at any time, and they've got some guys that can take first to third, and steal some bases and do the little things that make them good. I feel like that's why they're in the position they are now, to be in the position to go to the postseason." -- Tomlin, on the Twins
"I think that was as explosive as our dugout has been all year, when that ball went over the right-field wall. That was quite a moment." -- Molitor, on Dozier's homer
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
With his two-run single in the first inning, Encarnacion became only the third right-handed hitter in Indians' history with more than 100 walks and 100 RBIs in a single season, following Andre Thornton (1982) and Al Rosen (1950).
"As long as he's healthy, he's going to do that," Francona said. "Fun to watch. He's not done."
With his stolen base in the sixth, Buxton set the Twins record for consecutive steals without getting caught, with 23. He broke the previous mark of 22, set by Matt Lawton (1999-2000) and Chuck Knoblauch (1994). The MLB record is 50, set by Vince Coleman (1988-89).
BUXTON WITH FIVE-STAR CATCH
Buxton showed off his defensive prowess with an incredible diving catch in shallow left-center field to rob Jason Kipnis of a hit to open the bottom of the eighth. It had a catch probability of 24 percent, as he had to cover 56 feet in 3.6 seconds. It was Buxton's third five-star catch of the season, per Statcast™.
"Off the bat, I took a route where I thought it was going to travel farther than it did," Buxton said. "Once I saw it die down, I kind of got a good judgment on it. I just took a chance and tried to play it aggressively." More >
Twins: Rookie left-hander Adalberto Mejia (4-6, 4.48 ERA) is set to start the second game of the series on Wednesday at 6:10 p.m. CT. Mejia has posted a 4.70 ERA in two starts since missing more than a month with a strained left biceps, but he isn't expected to be on a pitch count this time out.
Indians: Right-hander Danny Salazar (5-6, 4.48 ERA) will take the mound for Wednesday's 7:10 p.m. ET tilt against the Twins at Progressive Field. His last outing -- on Thursday against the Angels -- was his first start since Sept. 5; he was on a pitch count in that start, as he was removed after 2 2/3 innings, allowing one run and striking out four.
Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Read his blog, **Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter [@RhettBollinger](https://twitter.com/RhettBollinger)** and listen to his podcast.
William Kosileski is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland