For six innings Friday night, all the Cleveland Guardians could muster was two hits and a walk, trailing 3-0 in a critical game against their division rival, the Minnesota Twins.
But as has been the case all season long against the Twins, the Guardians came alive late.
In the seventh inning, Andres Gimenez reached on an errant throw by second baseman Nick Gordon to give the Guardians a leadoff baserunner. Owen Miller followed with a single through the rightside of the infield off an 0-2 fastball, putting runners on first and third. After Luke Maile struck out, Myles Straw singled up the middle to score Gimenez and get Cleveland on the board. Steven Kwan grounded out but advanced Straw and Miller to second and third, respectively. With two outs, Amed Rosario fell behind 0-2 before tying the game on a two-run single.
Josh Naylor and Oscar Gonzalez delivered back-to-back singles to lead off the eighth inning. Ernie Clement took over for Naylor as a pinch runner and scored the go-ahead run from second base on a wild pitch. Twins reliever Jhoan Duran threw a curveball in the dirt that took a big bounce over the head of catcher Gary Sanchez behind the plate, allowing Clement to score.
Up until the seventh inning, the Guardians looked lifeless at the plate, especially against Minnesota starting pitcher Bailey Ober. Ober, making his first start since June 1 after a stint on the injured list, pitched five shutout innings, only allowing four baserunners and two of those were courtesy of a HBP. Cleveland seemed especially flummoxed by his slider.
Cleveland starting pitcher Triston McKenzie struggled early. With two outs in the third inning, he got two strikes on both Luis Arraez and Carlos Correa but ended up surrendering back-to-back singles. Jose Miranda lined an RBI double down the third base line off a first-pitch slider, scoring Arraez to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead. The only other mistake McKenzie made was give up a two-run homer to Jake Cave in the fourth inning, though the Twins would go quiet from there. McKenzie retired 11 of the final 12 batters he faced, giving the Guardians seven innings of work.
Trevor Stephan pitched a scoreless 1-2-3 eighth inning after Cleveland knotted the score at 3-3 in the bottom of the seventh, before Emmanuel Clase closed the door on Minnesota in the ninth once the Guardians took a 4-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Cleveland improved to 10-5 against the Twins this season, securing the tiebreaker should these two teams finish the season tied for first place in the AL Central. The Chicago White Sox also lost to the Detroit Tigers in extra innings Friday night, extending the Guardians’ division lead to four games and dropping their magic number to 15.