MINNEAPOLIS - The Cleveland Indians nailed down home field for the AL Wild Card game, riding a 13-strikeout performance by Ubaldo Jimenez for a 5-1 win over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday at Target Field.
The Indians stormed out of the third-base dugout after Clete Thomas grounded out to end the game, gathering for a group celebration behind the pitching mound. It was the third time in less than two weeks that an AL team clinched a postseason spot at the expense of the Twins, following the Athletics and Tigers.
Cleveland closed out the regular season with a 10-game winning streak, and takes on either Tampa Bay or Texas on Wednesday at Progressive Field in the Wild Card game. The winner there moves on to the ALDS, where division winners Boston, Detroit and Oakland await.
There is no word on who will start for the Indians on Wednesday, although 14-game winner Justin Masterson might get tapped after closing out the postseason-clinching win with two scoreless innings.
Jimenez was practically untouchable, giving up a soft single to Twins lead-off hitter Alex Presley and little else after that. Jimenez (13-9) fanned five in a row in the fifth and sixth innings while tying a career high for strikeouts.
It was the 66th time this season that the Twins struck out at least ten times in one game.
The Indians never trailed in sweeping the four-game series. They immediately removed any drama in the regular season finale when Michael Bourne led off the game with a single and Nick Swisher homered off Twins starter Scott Diamond (6-13). The ball just cleared the fence and was barely out of the reach of Thomas.
Cleveland added two runs in the sixth on a pair of Minnesota errors and a sacrifice fly by Yan Gomes. A third error in the half-inning, when a retreating Trevor Plouffe allowed a ground ball to sneak under his glove, drew boos from the smallish crowd of die-hards who watched their team lose for the 96th time.
Plouffe drew more scorn when he struck out looking on a 3-2 pitch with two outs and two runners on base in the sixth. The Twins finally broke through in the seventh on a run-scoring single by Eric Fryer.
Change could be coming for Minnesota after a third straight season of at least 95 losses. Manager Ron Gardenhire, who's won six division titles in 12 seasons with the Twins, does not have a contract for next season and will meet with GM Terry Ryan later this week about his future with the team.
NOTES: The Twins ended the season with 1,430 strikeouts, a franchise-high and third-most in baseball history. ... In their last five games of the season, all at home, the Twins never held a lead. ... Cleveland finished with 41 wins after the All-Star Break after winning just 24 times in the second half of last season. ... Indians manager Terry Francona has led his teams to at least 86 wins nine straight years.