When Brian Dozier’s home run cleared the right-field wall, Minnesota’s dugout burst into joyous celebration with players excitedly bouncing off each other.
The turn-around Twins are just one win from the playoffs.
Dozier’s three-run homer in the eighth inning pushed Minnesota to the brink of the postseason as the Twins, with manager Paul Molitor using a club record 10 pitchers, rallied for an 8-6 victory over Cleveland on Tuesday night, handing the Indians just their third loss in 32 games.
Dozier connected for his 33rd homer against Bryan Shaw (4-6) as the Twins, a 103-loss team in 2016, lowered their magic number for clinching a playoff berth to one.
As he rounded first, Dozier pumped his fist following a hit that resounded back to the Twin Cities.
“I couldn’t wait until I could get back to the dugout and celebrate with my brothers,” Dozier said.
Minnesota’s 38th come-from-behind win was symbolic of the club’s stunning role reversal.
“The willingness to never give up, never stop fighting, always competing in at-bats, that’s been our identity all year,” said center fielder Byron Buxton, who made a diving catch in the eighth. “Just because we’re so close to the playoffs, we didn’t go out there and try to be something we’re not.”
The Twins’ first trip to the postseason since 2010 will have to wait at least one more day as the Los Angeles Angels beat the Chicago White Sox 9-3.
One-out singles in the eighth by Jason Castro and Robbie Grossman set the table for Dozier, who drove an 0-1 pitch over the wall in right, touching off a manic celebration in Minnesota’s dugout.
“That was probably as explosive as our dugout’s been all year,” Molitor said. “That was quite a moment.”
Edwin Encarnacion hit his 38th homer and drove in four runs for the Indians, whose 29-3 mark over 32 games is the best in the majors since the 1947 New York Yankees did it.
After recently reeling off a record 22 straight wins, the Indians (98-59) are trying to hold onto the league’s best record as well as catch the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best overall mark.
Eddie Rosario homered and had three RBIs for the Twins, who won just 59 games last season and now are just a win away from extending a remarkable turnaround season.
“We’re proving people wrong,” catcher Chris Gimenez said. “We’re better than people think we are.”
Taylor Rogers (7-3), one of nine relievers Molitor had to use after starter Bartolo Colon got sick, got two outs in the seventh and Matt Belisle worked the ninth for his eighth save.
Minnesota is on the cusp of unexpected history.
In addition to making the postseason for the first time since 2010, the Twins are close to becoming the first team to lose 100 games and make the playoffs the following year. Granted, the second wild-card berth has made that more of a possibility, but it doesn’t diminish the accomplishment.
Minnesota is also seeking to become the 13th team, and first since the 2009 Seattle Mariners, to go from 100-plus losses to a winning record the following season.
TO (NOT) CATCH A THIEF: Buxton set a club record with his 23rd straight stolen base.
Buxton swiped second with a headfirst dive in the sixth. He began his streak on May 24 and he’s been successful in 28 of 29 attempts, a .966 percentage that leads the majors. He broke the Twins’ mark of 22 straight successful steals shared by Chuck Knoblauch and Matt Lawton.
“It’s something to cherish,” Buxton said.
HOMER HAPPY: The Twins have 201 homers, third-most in franchise history. Minnesota hit 225 homers in 1963, and 221 in 1964.
EASY EE: Encarnacion broke the 100-RBI plateau in the first with a two-run single. The slugger has driven in at least 100 runs in five of the past six seasons, and in his first season with the Indians, he became just the fifth player in Cleveland history with at least 100 RBIs and 100 walks in the same season.
Twins: Molitor said 3B/DH Miguel Sano remains unlikely to play in the wild-card game if the Twins get there. He’s missed 36 games with a left shin injury.
Indians: Cleveland’s banged-up outfield is on the mend. LF Michael Brantley is expected to try and run later this week, an important step in his recovery from an ankle injury. At this point, Brantley’s chances of playing in the postseason appear slim. … RF Lonnie Chisenhall campaigned to play in the series opener after sitting out since Sept. 14 with a calf injury.
Danny Salazar, whose spot on Cleveland’s postseason roster isn’t guaranteed, starts against Minnesota’s Adalberto Mejia.