If you want the shortened version of this recap, just pretend like I copy and pasted last night’s but replaced “Josh Naylor” with “Andrés Giménez”. The young second baseman played the hero in a game that was frustrating right up until it wasn’t, propelling Cleveland to a 5-3 win over the Twins and bringing them within a game of the AL Central lead.
According to MLB.com’s Mandy Bell, this is the first time back-to-back walk-off wins for the Guardians since July 8 and 9 of last year, when Franmil Reyes and Bobby Bradley gave Cleveland a pair of wins.
Minnesota tried to give away the game several times this afternoon. Maybe they were just ready to get home, or maybe they knew the walk-off was coming and wanted to prevent it. Either way, they walked the bases loaded on two separate occasions, and only escaped by the hair of their teeth or whatever that saying is.
The first bases-loaded chance for Cleveland came in the second inning and the only run to score was Steven Kwan being walked with the bases loaded. It happened again in the eighth when Giménez was hit by a pitch and Franmil Reyes and Sandy Leon were both walked. This time around, Myles Straw hit a hard ground ball to Carlos Correa, who chose to try and get the runner out at third, perhaps terrified of the blinding speed of Sandy Leon approaching second base. The throw got away from the Twins’ Gio Urshela and Reyes scored, tying up the game at three apiece.
And finally, in the ninth, after José Ramírez drew the 10th and final walk of the day and made it to second on a hit-and-run with Josh Naylor at the plate, they were able to make the most of it. To his credit, Naylor wanted to replicate his walk-off home run from last night as he crushed a couple of pitches foul. But it wasn’t until the next batter, Giménez, came up to bat that the game was officially over.
Like many of the decisions made by the Twins in this series, it was a weird one to not walk Giménez and face the ice-cold Franmil Reyes in a clutch situation. I’m sure glad they didn’t because Giménez took a high fastball and hit it 104.6 mph, 411 feet for the win.
Also like yesterday, this was a frustrating game for most of it. We can look back and laugh at the Guardians failing to score runs while the Twins were practically trying to give them away early on, but it felt real bad watching Amed Rosario roll over on pitches against pitchers who had no idea where the strike zone was. Ultimately, Rosario’s hot June ended with an 0-for-5 performance and a team-high seven runners stranded. He was hardly the only problem, though, as the majority of the offense just froze when it mattered.
The Guardians finished with three hits on the day, including Giménez’s game-winner, which is not usually a stat that follows a happy recap. The hardest-hit came from Ramíez, who blistered a 106.1 mph single in the first inning.
Shane Bieber was also present and accounted for in the game, throwing six innings with three earned runs and five strikeouts. He was hit hard throughout the game, especially a dicey first inning that included two hits and a walk, but came out with a quality start anyway. Bieber’s velocity was up a tick from his season average, but nothing that would prove he’s suddenly fixed. He went with the slider for almost half his pitches (49 of 99) with his four-seamer and knuckle curve sprinkled in.
The four-seamer, coming in at an average 91.3 mph, fooled no one, generating two whiffs on 16 swings and leaving bats at an average of 94.6 mph. One of those hard hits was saved by Own Miller making an incredible leaping grab.
That ball came off Alex Kiriloff’s bat at 101.5 with an 11-degree launch angle — right in the nitro zone of line drives — for an expected batting average of .930. One big leap from Miller zeroed out those odds.
Terry Francona opted to go to Emmanuel Clase in the top of the ninth in a tied game again, and this time it worked just planned. Clase was brilliant in his half-inning of work again, but this time the Guards were able to close it out before free baseball kicked in.
It was a shaky series, to say the least, but the Guardians came out on top 3-2 and can welcome the Yankees to town with a bit of confidence.