Guardians' pickups thwarted Twins' opportunities | Jeff Schudel

Sep. 2—It's funny how one pitch in late August can change the attitude of a baseball team and its entire organization.

The Guardians, down 2-1 to Minnesota with two out in the top of the ninth on Aug. 30, were one strike away from falling seven games behind the Twins. But Twins Twins closer Jhoan Duran threw a wild pitch behind Bo Naylor, enabling Andres Gimenez to score from third to tie the game.

Cole Calhoun crushed a three-run homer in the top of the 10th to send the Guardians back to Cleveland 5-2 winners and five games behind the Twins. Five games with 28 to play is still a huge deficit, but it is just a high hill compared to a seven-game mountain. Both teams won Sept. 1, so the deficit remained five games when the Guardians prepared to face to Rays on Sept. 2 while the Twins were facing the Texans.

Going 4-2 on the road trip inspired the Guardians to claim starting pitcher Lucas Giolito and relievers Matt Moore and Reynaldo López off waivers from the Angels on Aug. 31. Any player added to an MLB roster after Aug. 31 would not be eligible for the postseason.

The Guardians added the three pitchers without trading any prospects. But more than that, it was a preemptive strike to make sure the Twins didn't get any of the three pitchers. Waiver claims go by inverse order of the standings. Since the Guardians (64-70) had an inferior record to the Twins (69-65), they had first dibs.

"Our primary motivation was trying to improve our team and find ways to get better," said team president Chris Antonetti. "But obviously there's a secondary benefit of teams that we're chasing in Minnesota didn't have the opportunity to get these guys."

The waiver claims could add spice to the three-game series with the Twins that starts Sept. 4 at Progressive Field.

—The three games with Minnesota will end the season series with the Twins. The Guardians lead the series, 6-4. If the Twins and Guardians finish the season with identical records, the team that wins the series is declared division champion.

Here is how each team finishes the season starting on Sept. 4: Guardians — Twins three games at Progressive Field, at the Angels four games, at the Giants three games, Rangers at Progressive Field three games, at Royals three games, Orioles at Progressive Field four games, Reds at Progressive Field two games and finish the season in Detroit for three games.

Twins: At Cleveland three games, Mets home three games, Rays home three games, at White Sox four games, at Reds three games, Angels home three games, Athletics home three games, and finish the season at Colorado three games.