CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Indians will attempt to win 100 games in a season for the third time in franchise history when they host the Minnesota Twins on Thursday afternoon in the finale of a three-game series.
Cleveland’s path to reach the century mark was made a bit easier when Minnesota clinched the American League’s second wild-card spot late Wednesday night when the Los Angeles Angels lost to the Chicago White Sox 6-4 in 10 innings.
It is possible the Twins might sit some of their regulars Thursday in the wake of the celebration.
Minnesota became the first team in major league history to reach the playoffs after losing 100 games the previous season. The Twins will play the AL wild-card game Tuesday on the road against either the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox.
“It’s been awesome watching this team come together all season,” Twins veteran Joe Mauer said during the clubhouse celebration. “This is the best sound in the world. It’s been one of the most fun years that I’ve ever had.
“I like our guys. This is the culmination of a lot of hard work over the last few years.”
The Indians (99-59) and Twins (83-75) split the first two games of the series with Cleveland prevailing 4-2 on Wednesday.
The 100-win teams in Indians history were the 1995 squad that went 100-44 in a strike-shortened campaign, and the 1954 team that set a then-American League record by going 111-43.
Cleveland leads the Houston Astros by one game in the race for best record in the AL.
Indians manager Terry Francona has been impressed by a Minnesota team that has won six of its eight games at Progressive Field this year.
“In an era of home run or bust, their lineup is able to make a lot of adjustments,” Francona said. “They cover both sides of the plate and use the whole field. They are also doing it with young guys. Sometimes when young guys play at this time of the year, they get exposed, but their young guys are getting better.”
The Twins will go into the “meaningless” game Thursday with a slightly overworked bullpen. Manager Paul Molitor used 10 pitchers on Tuesday and six pitchers on Wednesday.
“(We) will just have to do the best we can,” Molitor said.
The Thursday pitching matchup features two veteran right-handers, Minnesota’s Ervin Santana and Cleveland’s Carlos Carrasco.
Santana is 16-8 with a 3.36 ERA. He is in line to be the Twins’ starter against the Yankees or Red Sox on Tuesday.
Santana has started three games against the Indians this year, going 2-0 with a 0.47 ERA, having allowed one run in 19 innings. His last start against Cleveland was a 4-0 victory June 25, when Santana scattered nine hits and struck out seven in six innings. In 24 career starts against the Indians, Santana is 7-11 with a 3.83 ERA.
Carrasco is enjoying a career year for the Indians. He is 17-6 with a 3.43 ERA, and he ranks in the top 10 in multiple American League categories.
Carrasco is 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA in two games against the Twins this year. His last start against Minnesota came on Aug. 17, a 9-3 victory in which he pitched five innings, giving up one run on five hits with nine strikeouts and one walk. In 16 career appearances against the Twins, Carrasco is 4-6 with a 4.26 ERA.
Carrasco hasn’t lost a game since Aug. 22. He is 5-0 with a 1.52 ERA in six starts since, with 45 strikeouts and five walks in 41 1/3 innings.
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