ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Ji-Man Choi hit a two-run homer off reliever Brad Hand with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Cleveland Indians 6-5 on Monday night to set a team record with their 12th straight victory at home.
Cleveland ace Corey Kluber was chased in the second inning, but the Indians rallied before blowing a late lead. They started play with a magic number of five to clinch their third consecutive AL Central championship. Second-place Minnesota was at home against the New York Yankees.
Tommy Pham grounded a single to right field before Choi went deep against Hand (0-1).
It appeared Jose Ramirez's nifty baserunning would help Cleveland overcome a poor start by Kluber.
Ramirez was hit by Chaz Roe's pitch to start the seventh, stole second and third, and scored to put the Indians ahead 5-4 with a headfirst slide to beat second baseman Brandon Lowe's throw home on Yonder Alonso's grounder.
Kluber lasted just 12/3 innings – matching his season low – and gave up four runs and five hits. The right-hander and Tampa Bay's Blake Snell are tied for the most wins in the majors with 18.
Jamie Schultz (2-0) worked a scoreless ninth to get the win.
Cleveland reliever Andrew Miller, reinstated from the 10-day disabled list after being out since Aug. 27 with a left shoulder injury, struck out two during a perfect sixth inning.
Six Cleveland relievers limited Tampa Bay to one hit entering the ninth.
After striking out two during an 11-pitch first inning, Kluber was pulled after 44 pitches in the second with the Indians trailing 4-0.