Twins clinch AL Central with win over Tigers, Cleveland loss
By NOAH TRISTER AP Baseball Writer
DETROIT (AP) — On this night, the stars were Randy Dobnak, Luis Arraez and Eddie Rosario — but really it could have been anyone.
The Minnesota Twins are AL Central champions because of contributions from all over the roster.
Arraez and Rosario homered, and Dobnak allowed one hit in six sparkling innings to lead Minnesota to a 5-1 win over the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday night. The Twins later clinched the division title when Cleveland lost to the White Sox in Chicago.
It’s the first division title for Minnesota since 2010 and will be only its second postseason appearance since then. The Twins (98-60) have their highest victory total since the 1970 team also won 98 games.
“It’s wonderful to see people achieve their goals and their dreams and reach these types of points,” said Rocco Baldelli, Minnesota’s first-year manager. “This is a very big mark. It’s something that we shoot for. You can’t play beyond this until you get to this point, and knowing that we have an opportunity to play for a World Series is exactly where we want to be right now.”
Minnesota wrapped up its win over the Tigers well before the Chicago-Cleveland game ended. That game was on television in the Minnesota clubhouse, where the Twins ate, played cards and waited calmly for a possible celebration.
As the White Sox closed out that 8-3 victory — first letting the Indians load the bases in the ninth inning — shouts could be heard in the hallway outside the Twins’ clubhouse.
The previous decade was much more successful for Minnesota, which won the division in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2009. That run abruptly came to an end another AL Central title in 2010. Now the decade of the 2010s will end the way it started — with the Twins atop the division.
They’ve won with an offense that is tied for the major league lead in home runs with a record 299. That’s been a team effort, with five players hitting over 30 and three more with over 20. The homer by Arraez was only his fourth of the season.
It was an entertaining season, too, with the Twins getting off to a fast start — they led the Indians by 11 1/2 games on June 3 — before giving up the division lead to surging Cleveland about two months later. But Minnesota is 27-13 since dropping three of four to the Indians in the second week of August.
“We knew what we were capable of if everyone stayed healthy and contributed,” right-hander Jake Odorizzi said. “This is what you’ve seen all year from us — consistency — and that’s the mark of a good team, so we’re excited to be in, and now it’s time to get ready for whoever we face.”
The winning pitcher Wednesday was a rookie who two years ago was playing for the Utica Unicorns of the United Shore Professional Baseball League. The Twins signed Dobnak to a minor league contract that year.
The 24-year-old Dobnak (2-1) allowed no scoring by Detroit after an unearned run in the first. Arraez hit a two-run homer in the seventh off Drew VerHagen (4-3), who had combined with Daniel Norris to shut out the Twins until then. Nelson Cruz added an RBI single in the eighth, and Rosario’s two-run shot that inning made it 5-1.
Miguel Cabrera lumbered around from first to score the game’s first run on Jeimer Candelario’s double. The 36-year-old Cabrera, playing for the first time since Friday, was able to slide home just ahead of the relay. Cabrera had reached on an error by shortstop Jorge Polanco.
Norris went three innings for the Tigers, allowing two hits and striking out five. VerHagen relieved him and pitched 4 1/3 innings.
The Tigers (46-111) are assured of baseball’s worst record and the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft.
“I know there’s a race for first pick in the draft. We don’t really try to do that,” said Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire, who was Minnesota’s skipper when the Twins won their previous division title. “I know some of our fans are thinking this is great, but we’re just trying to go out and play, and these guys are trying to get through this thing. It’s really tough right now.”
In addition to his home run, Rosario added a terrific catch in right field on Willi Castro’s sinking line drive in the eighth. The ball popped in and out of Rosario’s glove, but he was able to reach up and secure the ball with his bare hand while sliding across the grass. Then he casually threw the ball back in like it was no big deal.
Dobnak is getting married Saturday in Maryland. His week is already off to a good start.
“This is definitely going to be, easily one of the wildest weeks of my life,” he said. “Just to go out there and give our team a chance to win tonight was something that I was really looking forward to do, and luckily things turned out well for us.”
Baldelli did a postgame interview with what looked like icing on his face. It was his 38th birthday.
“I got my face thrown in the cake, which is perfectly fine by me,” he said.
Twins: RP Sam Dyson is out for the season after having shoulder surgery Tuesday. … C Mitch Garver (right hip) played for the first time since Sunday and struck out four times. … 3B Marwin González (oblique tightness) missed a second straight game.
Twins: Minnesota had not announced a starter for Thursday’s series finale at Detroit.
Tigers: Jordan Zimmermann (1-12) takes the mound in Detroit’s home finale.
Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
This version has been corrected to show that the Twins led the Indians by 11 ½ games on June 3.
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