MINNEAPOLIS — Ron Gardenhire is running out of chances to reach another career milestone.
The former American League Manager of the Year who has led the Minnesota Twins to six AL Central Division titles is two victories shy of 1,000.
After the Twins lost 6-5 to the Cleveland Indians on Thursday night, he has three games remaining in Minnesota's disappointing 66-93 campaign.
"When we're in a situation we're in and you've got (three) games left, it's easy to just look forward to the offseason," closer Glen Perkins said. "This is the most important thing we have left this year: to win those two games for him."
Minnesota rallied for four runs in the ninth inning off Indians closer Chris Perez – including a two-run homer from Josmil Pinto – but Joe Smith struck out pinch-hitter Oswaldo Arica to earn his third save in eight chances.
Andrew Albers (2-5) took the loss for the Twins, who have dropped seven of their last eight and are just 5-17 in their last 22 games. Albers allowed four runs – three earned – on seven hits and two walks in 5 2-3 innings. After not allowing a run in his first two career starts – including a two-hit shutout – the rookie left-hander is 0-5 with a 5.70 ERA in eight outings.
"You look back on those last six or seven starts and you know that helps motivate you and will help you get to work and help you work your butt off in the offseason," Albers said.
Ryan Doumit had three hits and an RBI for the Twins. Alex Presley and Brian Dozier drove in a run each.
"We got some excitement there in the ninth inning," Gardenhire said. "I like the way they finished and got after it. Just needed one more hit."
After three consecutive seasons with at least 93 losses, Gardenhire may not get the chance to become the eighth active manager and 60th ever to reach the 1,000-victory plateau with the only team he's ever managed.
The 55-year-old, who's managed the Twins since 2002, entered the 2013 campaign in the final year of his contract and has not been offered an extension. General manager Terry Ryan has said Gardenhire's future with the team will be decided in the offseason.
Gardenhire averaged 89 victories in his first nine seasons after replacing two-time World Series winner Tom Kelly, including a 96-win season in 2006. But after winning at least 79 games every season during that stretch, Gardenhire's Twins won 63 games in 2011, 66 games in 2012, and will fail to reach 70 victories again in 2013.
"I'm not too worried about (1,000 wins)," Gardenhire said. "A lot of other people talk about it, but I'm just trying to see us win a ballgame and shake hands. That's all I care about right now."
Indians manager Terry Francona was the last to reach the 1,000-victory mark, doing so July 23, 2011, while with Boston. His Cleveland club, winners of seven in a row, remains a game ahead of Texas for the second wild card spot and a game behind Tampa Bay for the first with three games to play.
Bryan Shaw (7-3) picked up the win with 1 2-3 innings of relief after Zach McAllister lasted just 4 1-3 innings despite not allowing a run. Since Sept. 19, Shaw is 3-0 with a pair of holds and a save in six outings, and hasn't allowed a run in 13 September appearances.
Yan Gomes and Michael Brantley both had three hits and drove in two for the Indians, with Gomes' RBI on a fourth-inning two-run homer.
NOTES: Cleveland will send RHP Corey Kluber (10-5, 3.61 ERA) to the mound on Friday night to face LHP Pedro Hernandez (3-2, 6.05 ERA) of the Twins. . Minnesota struck out nine times Thursday and are up to 1,391 for the season, passing the 2012 Oakland A's for sole possession of fourth on major league baseball's single-season strikeout list. The Twins are eight strikeouts from tying the 2001 Brewers for third.