A torrid winning streak during the most important time of the year has the surging Indians guaranteed at least one win-or-go-home game following the regular season. A win in Sunday's regular-season finale assures them a stake in the postseason.
A 5-1 win over the Twins -- Cleveland's ninth in a row -- on Saturday, coupled with a Tampa Bay loss, moved the Indians into sole possession of the top American League Wild Card spot. The Tribe leads both the Rays and Rangers by a game entering the season's final day, guaranteeing Cleveland at least a one-game tiebreaker for a Wild Card spot.
"They're game on," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of the Indians. "That's a game-on team. You look at some teams and they're destined to make the playoffs, and other teams just find a way. And these guys find a way to win. Just about the most exciting baseball played has been the Indians making late comebacks. They give up leads, but then they take them back."
The Twins have lost 16 of their last 21 entering the season finale, which will pit Minnesota lefty Scott Diamond against Cleveland righty Ubaldo Jimenez.
Diamond gets the ball in Sunday's finale, since Mike Pelfrey won't make his last start of the year. Diamond went 6 1/3 innings against the Tigers on Tuesday, but gave up three homers in the fourth and took the loss.
For the Indians, there's nobody they'd rather have right now than Jimenez, who has thrown seven consecutive quality starts with a 1.70 ERA in that span. He's one of baseball's hottest second-half hurlers, and he has been on fire since Aug. 23, though the Tribe lost to the Twins in that start.
Trevor Plouffe has hit .343 in 26 games this month for the Twins, while shortstop Pedro Florimon's nine home runs this season puts him alongside only Cristian Guzman as Twins shortstops to hit so many since 2000. Guzman hit nine in '02 and 10 in '01.
Indians: Going streaking
Cleveland's nine-game winning streak is its longest of the season, and the longest since Aug. 17-27, 2008, when the team rattled off 10 in a row.
The Tribe now has winning streaks of eight and nine this year, joining only Atlanta as Major League teams this season with multiple streaks of eight games or more (the Braves have three such streaks this year).
• Jason Giambi exited Saturday's game with a left forearm cramp. He's considered day to day.
Twins: The end of an era?
Sunday could be Gardenhire's last game as Twins manager, as he's not under contract for next season. The skipper expects to talk to general manager Terry Ryan after the season.
"We'll talk," Gardenhire said Saturday. "I don't have an opinion on anything other than trying to get through two games and see if we can win a game or two and go from there. We'll see how it all shakes out. I'm hoping to have a conversation with Terry about everything. I want to see what his plan is."
Gardenhire, at the helm since 2002, is two wins away from becoming the eighth active manager to reach 1,000 victories and the 60th all-time.
• If the Rangers, Rays and Indians finish the year in a three-way tie, it would require two tiebreaker games -- one on Monday and one on Tuesday -- ahead of Wednesday's AL Wild Card Game. The Indians would host the Rays on Monday, with the winner earning one of the berths. The loser would play at Texas on Tuesday for the final spot.
Those circumstances are the result of the Indians having the best combined record (7-5) against the Rays and Rangers, and therefore having the right to choose to host the first game. The Rays' combined record is second (7-6), and they chose to go on the road on Monday rather than host a game on Tuesday. The Rangers (5-8) were left with only that option.
Home-field advantage in Wednesday's AL Wild Card Game then would be determined by the head-to-head record between the two remaining teams. The Rays hold the advantage over the Indians, the Indians over the Rangers, and the Rangers over the Rays.
• The Indians announced Saturday that tickets for a potential tiebreaker game at Progressive Field on Monday are on sale now at Indians.com/Tiebreaker.
• If one game is needed to break a tie for a playoff berth between two teams, it will be played on Monday, hosted by the team that won the season series against the other. That applies to determining a division championship whether or not the losing team would still qualify as a Wild Card.
• Home-field advantage is determined first by head-to-head records, then by the higher winning percentage in intradivision games. If a further tiebreaker is needed, it's the best winning percentage in the last half of intraleague games.