The Minnesota Twins clinched a drama-packed sudden death playoff for the American League Central title against Detroit Tigers – in a match veteran shortstop Orlando Cabrera dubbed the "most unbelievable game" he had ever played or witnessed.
|Mauer sets off on a victory circuit [GALLO/GETTY]
The Twins won 6-5 in 12 innings after finishing the regular season, like Detroit, with an 86-76 record.
They advance to a best-of-five division series against the Yankees beginning on Wednesday in New York.
Carlos Gomez scored the winning run in a seesaw battle on Tuesday with one out in the 12th inning.
The tally ignited a wild celebration on the diamond, with Minnesota players taking a victory lap in front of a roaring, record crowd of more than 54,000 at the Metrodome, which will give way to a new ballpark for the Twins next season.
"This is absolutely the most unbelievable game I ever played or seen," said 13-year veteran Cabrera, whose two-run homer in the seventh gave the Twins a 4-3 lead, overcoming a 3-0 Tigers' lead in the third inning.
The victory completed a rousing comeback this season by the Twins, who became the first team to win a division title after trailing by three games with four to play.
Earlier in September, they trailed Detroit by seven games.
Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer, one of the leading contenders for American League MVP honours, slapped high-fives with fans as he circled the stadium with teammates.
"Unbelievable," said Mauer.
"That was one of the best games I've ever played in. Detroit doesn't have to put their heads down."
Miguel Cabrera homered to fuel Detroit's early lead, and Magglio Ordonez lined a homer in the eighth to tie it at 4-4.
|End of the road for Granderson [GALLO/GETTY]
Brandon Inge's 10th-inning double put Detroit ahead 5-4, but the Twins answered with a run in the bottom half on Matt Tolbert's bouncer through the middle.
Both teams squandered chances to win in the late innings, with brilliant fielding and double plays.
After tying it in the 10th, Minnesota looked poised to win with men on first and third and one out when Nick Punto lined to left field.
Ryan Raburn caught it and gunned out Casilla at the plate for another sensational double play.
Bobby Keppel, the eighth Twins pitcher used in the game, eventually got the win. Detroit's Fernando Rodney had pitched three innings in the four-hour, 37-minute marathon.
The Twins face a mammoth task overhauling the Yankees, who dominated Minnesota throughout the season, winning all seven of their encounters.
The other American League playoff series will have the Boston Red Sox playing the Los Angeles Angels, starting on Thursday in Los Angeles.
National League playoffs begin on Wednesday with the Colorado Rockies travelling to Philadelphia to play the World Series champion Phillies, while the Los Angeles Dodgers host the St Louis Cardinals.
Winners then advance to the best-of-seven League Championship Series, with the survivors facing each other in the best-of-seven World Series.