The stars were Randy Dobnak, Luis Arraez and Eddie Rosario, but really it could have been anyone as the Minnesota Twins clinched the American League Central championship with contributions from all over the roster.
Arraez and Rosario homered, while Dobnak on Wednesday allowed one hit in six sparkling innings to lead Minnesota to a 5-1 win over the Detroit Tigers. The Twins later clinched the division title when Cleveland lost to the White Sox in Chicago.
It is the first division title for Minnesota since 2010 and is to be only their second post-season appearance since then. The Twins (98-60) have their highest victory total since the 1970 team also won 98 games.
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“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 their 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.
Photo: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY
In the National League, the Milwaukee Brewers have overcome long odds to get back into the post-season for a second straight season after a 9-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
Nobody can count them out, not even with MVP Christian Yelich reduced to watching through champagne-clouded eyes.
Yelich stood in the middle of the clubhouse and got drenched with bubbly and beer after they clinched at least a wild-card berth and left the NL Central title tantalizingly close.
Photo: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY
“Obviously I can’t contribute on the field, but it’s been really cool to watch,” said Yelich, who is recovering from a broken kneecap and rejoined the team for the clincher. “We’re more than a one-man team. We’ve got a lot of players who have done a lot of great things in the big leagues.”
The Brewers have won six in a row and 17 of 19, despite losing Yelich. The division-leading Cardinals fell again on Wednesday, slicing their lead over the Brewers to 1.5 games. Milwaukee trailed Washington by one game for the wild-card lead.
“It was really against all odds, what we just accomplished,” said Ryan Braun, who got the clincher started with a grand slam in the first inning. “It’s incredibly difficult. It’s hard to articulate how unlikely what we just did was, but again, there’s still challenges that lie ahead.”
Last season, they raced from a five-game deficit to the division title by going 19-6 after Sept. 1. They caught the Cubs and won a tiebreaker at Wrigley Field, then swept the Rockies and reached the NL Championship Series before losing in seven games to the Dodgers.
They have pulled off another improbable run with manager Craig Counsell’s outside-the-box resourcefulness, the bullpen’s imperviousness and the offense’s ability to find a new star each game with everything on the line.
“I think they enjoy the challenges, and that’s what it was,” Counsell said. “We got presented a challenge, and it didn’t look great. It wasn’t impossible.”
Braun — the 2007 NL Rookie of the Year and 2011 NL Most Valuable Player — has found his touch during this winning streak and helped Milwaukee have another frothy moment.
Braun had a solo shot in a 4-2 win in the series opener and got the celebration started early with his eighth career grand slam. Teammates were on their feet, leaning against the dugout railing in anticipation of a big night when he connected off Tyler Mahle (2-12).
When Eric Thames followed with another homer, Brewers players jubilantly smacked the green padding atop the dugout railing — the party was getting warmed up.
In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the collapsing Chicago Cubs were eliminated from playoff contention shortly before losing their eighth straight game, falling 4-2 to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Back-to-back wild pitches by David Phelps in the eighth inning enabled Pittsburgh to score the winning run. Just before Phelps’ bout with wildness, Milwaukee clinched their spot.
The Cubs will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
Phelps entered in relief with the score tied at 2-2 and walked Pablo Reyes to put runners on first and second with one out. Jose Osuna drew a walk from Brad Wieck (1-2) before scoring on the wild pitches. Erik Gonzalez added a sacrifice fly.
In New York, Pete Alonso hit his major league-high 51st home run, one short of the rookie record, while Jacob deGrom made his last overpowering pitch for a repeat Cy Young Award as the New York Mets routed the Miami Marlins 10-3 in an easy win that was not enough to keep them in the playoffs hunt.
New York were eliminated from the NL wild-card race when Milwaukee secured the league’s final post-season berth. With four games remaining, they are five behind the streaking Brewers (88-70), who were already ahead 6-1 by the time New York took the field.
There was not much reaction among a Citi Field crowd of 21,471 when the Milwaukee final went up on the out-of-town scoreboard. Many fans filed for the exits after Alonso walked in the eighth, and a handful chanted “Thank you, Mets” following the final out.
In other games, it was:
‧ Athletics 3, Angels 2
‧ Nationals 5, Phillies 2
‧ Diamondbacks 9, Cardinals 7
‧ Astros 3, Mariners 0
‧ Braves 10, Royals 2
‧ Rays 4, Yankees 0
‧ Dodgers 6, Padres 4
‧ Red Sox 10, Rangers 3
‧ Giants 2, Rockies 1
‧ Blue Jays 3, Orioles 2
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