Minneapolis, MN – The Cleveland Indians have the AL wild-card lead going into the final day of the season.
Talk about getting hot at the right time.
Scott Kazmir struck out 11, Carlos Santana hit a two-run homer and the Indians beat the Minnesota Twins 5-1 on Saturday for their ninth straight win, moving them closer to their first playoff berth in six years.
Sweep the Twins on Sunday and the Indians are in the playoffs for the first time since losing the 2007 ALCS.
Lose? Well, now they can do no worse than a regular season tiebreaker for the final AL wild-card spot.
Cleveland's win Saturday coupled with Tampa Bay's loss to Toronto gave the Indians their one-game lead at 91-70. The Rangers beat the Angels on Saturday and are tied with the Rays for the second AL wild-card berth at 90-71.
The Indians were already selling tickets for a potential tiebreaker game on Monday at Progressive Field if that's how things shake out.
Kazmir (10-9) improved to 3-0 against the Twins this season after giving up one run, six hits and two walks in six innings.
Marc Rzepczynski, Cody Allen and Joe Smith then faced the minimum over the last three innings as the Indians took their third straight from the Twins.
"It's exciting. It's fun," Twins manager Terry Francona said. "I know I'm supposed to come up with some stuff to say, but it's just, you show up and play. We need to be one run better tomorrow and we'll go from there."
Cole De Vries (0-2) went five innings in his second start of the season and gave up five runs, six hits and a walk for Minnesota. The right-hander's seven strikeouts came in the first four innings.
"It's frustrating and flustering," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We haven't played good and it has not been fun. I wish I could have all the answers, but the guys are out there and they're not feeling too good right now. They were pushing to try to win a ballgame.
The Indians have their longest winning streak since a 10-game streak from Aug. 17-27, 2008.
They overcame a slow start to get there.
The first pitch was delayed almost 2 1/2 hours because of rain but De Vries came out hot. He struck out seven of the first 11 Cleveland hitters, including all three in the second inning.
The Indians didn't have a hit until Jason Kipnis' two-out single in the fourth. Santana followed with his 20th homer of the season for a 2-0 lead.
Ryan Doumit and Josh Willingham had back-to-back singles to start the bottom of the fourth for the Twins and Eric Fryer knocked Doumit in with a two-out single to get them within 2-1.
But the Indians sent eight batters to the plate and scored three runs with two outs in the fifth to take a 5-1 lead. Michael Bourn tripled to knock in the first two runs and scored on Kipnis' single.
The Twins have lost five in a row and nine of their last 10 ... Indians DH Jason Giambi left the game with a forearm cramp ... In De Vries' only other start this season, he gave up six runs on two innings vs. Oakland last Sunday ... The Indians lost the 2007 ALCS to the Red Sox in seven games.