The battle between the one and two seeds in the American League Central did not disappoint as it took extra innings for it to be decided. In the end, it […]
The battle between the one and two seeds in the American League Central did not disappoint as it took extra innings for it to be decided. In the end, it was Andrés Giménez coming up clutch for the second game in a row as the Guardians take the first game in Minnesota 6-5 to tie the Twins for the AL Central lead.
Guardians (35-28) 6 – Twins (38-31) 5. WP: Trevor Stephan (3-2), LP: Griffin Jax (4-1), SV: Emmanuel Clase (16)
Tuesday brought some changes to the Guardians roster as they had to cut down to 12 pitchers as per the league rules, along with the return of Aaron Civale and someone in the dugout needed to be either sent down or Designated for Assignment to accommodate the return of Franmil Reyes. When all was said and down, Nick Sandlin was optioned down to Triple-A and Oscar Mercado was DFA, the fifth Guardian this year to be DFA. With all that set, Civale would be getting the start in Minnesota to start an eight in 11 game stretch with the Twins. The last time Civale was the starter against Minnesota, it turned into a bad fifth inning as the Twins ended up scoring nine runs in the inning to eventually beat the Guardians 12-8. This time around, the Guardians wouldn’t make that mistake as Civale pitched got through the fifth inning before turning over to the bullpen. Civale, who usually throws his cutter the majority of the time, decided to switch to throwing his sinker, curveball and slider more often, and it worked. The curveball was extremely effective as he got nine whiffs on six swings by the Twins hitters.
“I thought he had a real good breaking ball,” Manager Terry Francona said. “I thought he was crisp. I thought he was pretty good.”
His spin rate on every pitch was higher than his yearly average, something averaging as much as 70 more spins per minute. Only his slider had less rotation than usual. Civale winded up going five innings, giving up two runs on five hits and struck out seven, the second most he’s had in an outing this season.
The other Guardian making his return to the Guardians lineup was Franmil Reyes, as he had been out since May 24. After a solid couple of games with Columbus (Triple-A) in which he hit more than his fare share of home runs, Reyes came back and struggled at first as he struck out in both of his first two at-bats. However, Reyes delivered arguably the biggest hit of the game as trailing 5-3 in the 8th inning and with two outs, Reyes used all of his strength to hit a rocket 111 miles per hour of his bat, 419 feet to straight-away center to tie the game at 5.
“He had one big one,” Francona said of Reyes. “That was really nice. To fight back on the road like that, there was a lot of good stuff.
Andres the Clutch Giant
It seems like, and is true, that when Andrés Giménez gets past the seventh inning, he becomes one of the most effective hitters in baseball. Past the seventh inning, Giménez is batting over .400. Along with that, he has 23 hits when runners are in scoring position. That is what it means to be clutch. So, guess who delivered the winning run for the second game in a row on the road? You guessed it. Andrés the Giant. With Oscar Gonzalez on second, Giménez hit a slow roller off of Griffin Jax, but went up the middle and allowed Gonzalez to score to put the Guardians up 6-5 in the 11th.
“You got to be a good hitter because you’re gonna face some quality arms,” Francona said. “Every once in a while, you’ll see him chase a fastball up but seems like late in the game he doesn’t.”
Another person who was back in the lineup after missing two games was José Ramírez, who missed the last two games in Los Angeles with thumb soreness. He did not take long to make his presence felt at Target Field, as in his second at-bat, he lined one into center field that dropped far in front of Twins centerfielder Byron Buxton. Here’s what’s separates Ramírez from nearly every other player in baseball. Most would stop at first with a single for the safe and sure hit. Not José. Ramírez is one of the most aggressive base runners in the majors, so it was only natural that he turned on the afterburners and headed for second after his signature losing of his helmet, Ramírez was safe and turned a single into a double.
“He’s the only guy in the league that gets a double on that. It’s unbelievable. He sees the field so well.”
Bullpen comes through in extras
When Eli Morgan came on in relief of Enyel De Los Santos in the seventh inning, Morgan was riding a scoreless inning streak of 20.2 innings. However, that unfortunately ended two batters later as Luis Arráez, the league leader in batting average, belted a three-run blast that put the Twins up 5-3, their fifth unanswered run of the game. With the game tied going into the bottom of the ninth, the Guardians decided to go with the Minnesota kid in his hometown, Sam Hentges. Hentges gave up two hits during the inning but getting Jose Miranda and Arráez out by flying and grounding out to go along with Luke Maile throwing out Nick Gordon attempting to steal, Hentges and the Guardians forced extra innings.
In the bottom of the 10th, Trevor Stephan came on to pitch. With a runner automatically placed on second, Stephan walked Bryon Buxton to start off the inning which put runners on first and second with no outs. However, something turned on in Stephan as he become unhittable after that. Striking out Carlos Correa on five pitches, Max Kepler on four and Gary Sanchez on three, striking out three batters in a row to send it to the 11th.
With a lead, that meant the Guardians could turn to their closer, one of the best and brightest in the game, Emmanuel Clase. Clase was able to get three outs although the last one by Jose Miranda was a near heart attack for fans as he hit one deep to left that just avoided going over for a home run as Steven Kwan made the catch on the warning track, allowing the Guardians to escape with a 6-5 win, Clase to get his 16th save on the season and his ninth save in his last 10 appearances. Francona praised the performance of his bullpen after the game.
“Especially on the road, you’re one mistake from going home,” Francona explained. “There was a little bending, but we didn’t break, and I think these guys have kind of grown up in front of our eyes.”
Naylor big in return to Minnesota
.361 days after his devastating ankle injury that ended his season and changed his life, Josh Naylor played his first game at Target Field. Looking to put those memories behind him for good, he did just that in the third inning as he made excellent contact with a pitch from Joe Ryan that went 353 feet to right and over the 20-foot wall for a two-run home run. Naylor, who usually is very fired up after a home run, was much more relaxed and quiet rounding the bases. Nonetheless, he high fived his teammates with a smile on his face as he ran back to the dugout.
“I’m sure that was extra meaningful for him, but it helped us too. He’s ok. I think he’s in a good place.”