The Twins helped themselves Tuesday with a 4-1 victory in the opener, then waited until New York defeated Chicago 7-0 and Detroit routed Kansas City 15-6 to celebrate their second straight AL Central title.
“I was watching the scoreboard the whole time,” said manager Ron Gardenhire, whose team has won 10 straight. “I’m not going to lie.”
The Twins, who also clinched the division against the Indians last season, won back-to-back division championships for the first time since 1969-70.
Accomplishing the feat didn’t look possible at the All-Star break, when Minnesota was 44-49 and 7 1/2 games out of first place. But the Twins went a major league-best 44-20 in the second half. They will face the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs.
“We fought each other, we yelled at each other, we did everything we possibly could to motivate each other,” first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz said. “We’ve been through a lot together.”
Kyle Lohse, coming off his career-high 14th victory, will start for the Twins on Wednesday.
The right-hander reached his personal milestone by allowing three runs and eight hits over 6 2-3 innings of Thursday’s 5-3 home win over the White Sox. He didn’t issue a walk and struck out six.
Lohse has won eight of his last 10 starts, and is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in his last two.
The Indians have lost 15 of 20 to fall a season-high 24 games below .500.
STANDINGS: Indians - 4th place, 21 1/2 GB, AL Central. Twins - 1st place, AL Central.
INDIANS PROBABLE STARTER: C.C. Sabathia (13-9, 3.63 ERA). Sabathia is 4-2 over his last seven starts, allowing three runs or fewer in five of those outings. Despite allowing three runs and seven hits over seven innings on Thursday, the left-hander lost 3-2 at home to Kansas City. Sabathia is 2-0 with a 1.72 ERA in two starts against the Twins this season. In nine career starts against them, he is 4-2 with a 3.97 ERA.
TWINS PROBABLE STARTER: Lohse (14-11, 4.73 ERA). Lohse is 2-1 with a 5.29 ERA in three starts against Cleveland this season. He is 5-2 all-time against the Indians with a 5.09 ERA in 10 games, including eight starts.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Indians - Jody Gerut, .282 avg., 22 HRs and 75 RBIs; Casey Blake, 80 runs; Milton Bradley, 17 SBs. Twins - A.J. Pierzynski, .309 avg.; Torii Hunter, 26 HRs and 101 RBIs; Shannon Stewart, 88 runs; Cristian Guzman, 18 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Tied, 9-9.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Indians - The Indians, who are 9-3 on artificial surfaces this year, play their final four games on turf. … C Josh Bard, who drove in the lone Cleveland run Tuesday, has a homer and four RBIs over his last four games. … RF Gerut is batting .304 (7-for-23) during a six-game hitting streak. Twins - The Twins won the AL pennant in 1965, the AL West in 1969, 1970, 1987 and 1991 and the AL Central last year, but each of those titles were clinched on the road. … Gardenhire is the first manager in club history to lead his team to consecutive division titles. … The Twins’ 10-game win streak is their longest since 1991.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Indians - 29-48 on the road; Twins - 47-33 at home.
INJURIES: Indians - 2B John McDonald (back), 15-day DL; OF Bradley (back), 15-day DL; OF Matt Lawton (finger), 15-day DL; OF Ellis Burks (elbow), 60-day DL; OF Ryan Ludwick (knee), 60-day DL; RHP Jason Bere (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Dave Elder (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Bob Wickman (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Mark Wohlers (elbow), 60-day DL; INF Ricky Gutierrez (back), 60-day DL; SS Omar Vizquel (knee), 60-day DL. Twins - RHP Mike Fetters (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Joe Mays (elbow), 60-day DL.