MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Jake Cave hit a pair of home runs, Kenta Maeda finished off his regular season with another strong start and the Minnesota Twins beat the Detroit Tigers 7-6 on Wednesday night to take over sole possession of the AL Central lead for the first time since late August.
Eddie Rosario added a two-run homer for Minnesota (35-22), which has won four straight. The Twins moved a half-game ahead of the second-place Chicago White Sox (34-22).
“We haven’t really talked about the standings or anything like that,” Cave said. “Everybody just kind of knows that our plan was to win out. Why wouldn’t you just want to win every game? That’s best-case scenario, so that’s what we’re doing these last few games.”
Maeda (6-1) allowed three runs and four hits in six innings with nine strikeouts.
“Just generally happy to be starting in the postseason and also at the same time really honored,” Maeda said through a translator. “I’m just glad everything pitching-wise is going in a good direction consistently through the season.”
After Víctor Reyes’ infield hit leading off, Maeda (6-1) retired 15 of his next 16 batters and didn’t allow a hit during that stretch. He gave up a three-run homer to Miguel Cabrera in the sixth.
Cabrera hit another three-run homer with two outs in the ninth off Sergio Romo, his ninth home run this season. Romo retired Jeimer Candelario on a groundout for his fifth save in six chances.
“I thought we’d get back in that ballgame,” Detroit interim manager Lloyd McClendon said. “Maeda was tough early, but I thought our guys were grinding and we could get to their bullpen to get back in the ballgame.”
Tigers rookie Casey Mize (0-3) gave up six runs and five hits in 4 2/3 innings. Mize, the first-overall pick in the 2018 amateur draft, finished his rookie season with a 6.99 ERA in seven starts.
“I’m not lost,” Mize said. “I feel like I have the stuff to be here. It’s just execution, command, sequencing and all of that’s tough to do. I’m struggling with that right now. Pretty bad timing on my part.”
Cave hit a two-run homer in the fourth and an opposite-field solo shot to left leading off the sixth, giving him four homers this season.
“It was a fun game in our dugout,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I think the guys were really taking it all in. Obviously, some guys are following what’s going on around the league, but really, what we’re doing is just focusing on trying to play a good game and taking care of business on our end.”
Cabrera has 486 home runs, seven shy of Lou Gehrig and Fred McGriff for 28th. He became the fourth player to reach 1,200 RBIs with Detroit. Cabrera also scored his 1,455th run, surpassing Bobby Abreu for most among Venezuelan-born players.
Baldelli said the starting pitchers for Wednesday, Friday and Saturday would likely be his rotation for the first round of the playoffs. Maeda is lined up to start the first game next week, followed by José Berríos and Michael Pineda.
Twins: DH Nelson Cruz missed his fourth straight game with right knee soreness. Cruz ran before the game to test his readiness and Baldelli said he was available to pinch-hit, if needed. Baldelli said Cruz wouldn’t be back in the lineup until he’s 100 percent.
Tigers: RHP Michael Fulmer (0-2, 8.17 ERA) will start the first game in Kansas City on Thursday as Detroit has a four-game series to end the season. Fulmer has started nine games in his comeback from elbow surgery but hasn’t pitched more than three innings or 65 pitches. LHP Kris Bubic (1-6, 3.97) is scheduled to start for the Royals.
Twins: Berríos (5-3, 3.72) will start Friday against Cincinnati. He owns a 2.05 ERA in four September starts.
• Indians 3, White Sox 2
CLEVELAND (AP) – Shane Bieber lowered his ERA to 1.63 in his final regular-season start, the lowest in the American League since Luis Tiant’s 1.60 for Cleveland in 1968, and Jordan Luplow hit a game-ending home run that gave the Indians a 3-2 win over Chicago on Wednesday night.
The loss dropped the White Sox in second place in the AL Central at 34-22, a half-game behind Minnesota (35-22). Chicago has lost a season-high four in a row and us 1-5 on a seven-game trip.
Bieber, who leads the big leagues with eight wins, allowed an unearned run and two hits in five innings with 10 strikeouts. The right-hander also is first in baseball with 122 strikeouts and eight double-digit strikeout games.
“I’m not going to get caught up in that stuff, but what I’m proudest of is the consistency,” he said. “You wait your whole life to pitch in games like this. It’s a lot of fun right now.”
Bieber lowered his major league-leading ERA from 1.74 and will open the postseason for Cleveland. Chicago’s Dallas Keuchel is second in the AL at 2.04 heading into his start in the series finale Thursday.
“I’m beyond excited to have the opportunity to do what I’m going to be able to do over the next week,” Bieber said.
Cleveland closed within two games of the first place with their second straight last at-bat victory. José Ramírez hit a three-run homer with two outs in the 10th for a 5-3 win Tuesday to clinch a playoff spot.
With the score 2-2, Luplow homered onto the porch in left field off Gio González (1-2). Luplow, a .194 hitter, struck out in his first three at-bats and followed with his second home run of the season.
“I was trying to be aggressive and get a good pitch to hit,” Luplow said. “I just treated it the same as in any other situation.”
Brad Hand (2-1) earned the win with a perfect ninth.
White Sox starter Lucas Giolito gave up two runs and four hits in six innings, striking out 11. Manager Rick Renteria said he didn’t regret allowing the righty to throw a career-high 119 pitches.
“We got a great pitching performance from Lucas,” Renteria said. “Certainly what we needed to get, and he did a great job. We played a good ballgame, so all we can do is put it behind us and get ready to play the next one.”
Carlos Santana hit a 441-foot home run in the second and with 215 homers tied Hall of Famer Larry Doby for sixth place on the Indians list.
Edwin Encarnación had an RBI groundout that tied the score in the fourth by bringing home José Abreu, who reached on an error by Ramírez at third.
Cleveland took a 2-1 lead on Franmil Reyes’ sixth-inning sacrifice fly, but Abreu tied the score with a sacrifice fly in the eighth off James Karinchak.
Abreu leads the AL with 57 RBIs, but went 0 for 2 and dropped his average to .329. Ramírez also was 0 for 2, stopping his seven-game hitting streak, while Chicago’s Tim Anderson was hitless in four at-bats and is batting .346.
Cleveland rookie Triston McKenzie made his first relief appearance, following Bieber with two scoreless innings.
Indians manager Terry Francona will not return to the dugout during the regular season, but is slated to join the team’s postseason bubble. The 61-year-old has missed 42 games because of gastrointestinal surgery and blood-clotting issues.
“It gives Tito an opportunity to be around the team, even if it’s not in the dugout,” president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said.
Renteria was ejected from the first two games of the series and remains angry that Anderson was tossed, along with him, by umpire Ángel Hernández on Tuesday. “Players in high-level situations have the right to express themselves with high emotion,” he said.
White Sox: RHP Alex Colomé (back spasms) played catch before the game and was cleared to pitch. One night earlier, Colomé worked a perfect ninth but was unable to continue in extra innings when his back tightened.
White Sox: Keuchel (6-2) had a no-decision on Sept. 19 at Cincinnati, throwing four scoreless innings in his return from a stint on the injured list caused by back spasms.
Indians: RHP Zach Plesac (4-2, 1.85 ERA) has not allowed a run in two starts against the White Sox this season, striking out 18 without a walk over 14 innings. Plesac, who will not have enough innings to qualify for the ERA title, will be pitching on five days’ rest for the second straight outing.