The top two contenders in the AL Central came to play Tuesday night, delivering a back-and-forth affair that saw the Cleveland Guardians prevail, 6-5, in extra innings over the Minnesota Twins.
After both teams failed to score in the tenth inning, Andrés Giménez lined a one-out RBI single to center field in the eleventh, scoring the go-ahead run to give the Guardians a 6-5 lead. Emmanuel Clase took it from there, pitching a scoreless ninth — albeit, with the third out coming on the warning track in left field — to secure the hard-fought win for Cleveland.
Cleveland opened up a 3-0 lead in the first three innings, thanks to a two-out RBI double by Oscar Gonzalez in the first inning and a two-run homer by Josh Naylor in the third inning. But the offense went cold from there, opening the door for the Twins to claw their way back into the game.
Making his first start since May 20, Aaron Civale acquitted himself well on the mound for the Guardians. He held the Twins scoreless in four of the five frames he pitched, only running into trouble in the fourth inning when he surrendered a two-run double to Alex Kirilloff with two outs. Those two runs were the only ones he allowed all evening, giving up five hits and one walk while striking out seven. His curveball was his best pitch, finishing the night with a 50% CSW%.
The Cleveland bullpen took over for Civale in the sixth inning and weren’t quite up to the task of defending the Guardians’ 3-2 lead. After pitching a scoreless sixth, Enyel De Los Santos issued a one-out walk to Trevor Larnach in the seventh before manager Terry Francona opted to bring in Eli Morgan. But Morgan’s trusted changeup betrayed him Tuesday night, starting with a double to left field by Ryan Jeffers. The game turned on Morgan’s changeup to Luis Arráez the very next at-bat, which ended up in the seats in right field to give the Twins a 5-3 lead.
The very next inning, Franmil Reyes came to the plate with two outs and Josh Naylor on first. Up to that point, Reyes was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts in his first game back from the injured list. Twins reliever Emilio Pagan took him to a full count, at which point he delivered a cutter down the middle that Reyes clobbered to straightaway center field for a game-tying two-run shot.
It was Reyes’ first home run since May 7.
From there, the Guardians leaned on their bullpen to hold serve until Cleveland could scrape across the go-ahead run. Bryan Shaw pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning, before giving way to Sam Hentges in the ninth. No one came came up bigger than Trevor Stephan in the bottom of the tenth inning. Facing the top of the Twins’ lineup with a runner on second, Stephan walked Byron Buxton but then struck out Carlos Correa, Max Kepler, and Gary Sanchez.
A great win for your first-place Cleveland Guardians.