CLEVELAND — The Guardians have feasted on Twins relievers all year, but they hadn’t hit Jhoan Duran. On Friday, they discovered that it is not necessary.
Minnesota’s hopes of trapping Cleveland in the AL Central suffered a ruinous blow Friday, and the Guardians didn’t even launch for the winning curve. He bounced off the dirt, bounced to the backstop and allowed pinch runner Ernie Clement to score from second base, clinching a 4-3 comeback that leaves the Twins five games out of first place with 19 to play.
“That was a very tough ballgame to watch,” manager Rocco Baldelli said after his bullpen blew a late lead against the Guardians for the sixth time this season. “We felt good [about] many things that we were doing. We had big changes, we made big plays.”
And he absorbed another big loss, one that clinched the season series for Cleveland, meaning the Twins must finish ahead of the Guardians to win the AL Central since there are no playoff games anymore.
Duran, who hadn’t allowed a run to Cleveland in 8⅓ innings earlier this year, entered with the score tied in the eighth inning and gave up a soft single to Josh Naylor, then Oscar Gonzalez’s grounded single into the box. idle for a shift.
Andres Gimenez came up, who took a ball, tossed a futile fastball and then saw a 1-1 curveball by Duran bounce deep inside, missing his shoe and jumping wide receiver Gary Sanchez, who didn’t realize where he had gone. .
By the time he saw the ball, Clement was rounding off third, and Sanchez’s throw to the plate, where third baseman Gio Urshela was waiting, came too late.
“That’s the pitch I was trying to hit. That’s what I was trying to do,” Duran said of the pitch, which he expected Gimenez to say hello to. “[Sanchez] I was looking for it, but it went up, it went down, it went backwards. All I could do was yell to where the ball was, and you can hear a lot down there.”
Duran retired the team without another run, but one of the cruelest losses of the season — blowing a 3-0 lead, using four of his best relievers and seeing the Guardians beat the most reliable — was almost inevitable.
“This is the kind of baseball they play. They apply pressure and continue to compete and probably have a lot of wins coming back,” Baldelli said of the Guardians, who have won 16 games in their last at-bat. “But when you feel like you can make the plays and throw some better shots and you’re right where you need to be and we’re not, it’s frustrating.”
It’s about the worst possible start to this weekend’s critical five-game series that the Twins could have imagined. Especially after it looked like they might capture an unlikely win, thanks to pretty much the most unlikely pair of heroes imaginable: a pitcher who was out for 3 1/2 months and a hitter who doesn’t drive in runs on the road.
But Bailey Ober and Jake Cave got ahead in the first of five games here, though it didn’t work out in the end.
Ober, who hadn’t pitched for the Twins since suffering a groin injury June 1, faced 13 batters before giving up his first hit. The tall righty went five innings, though he hit two Guardians with pitches, leaving after throwing 70 pitches, the Twins clearly committed to slowly increasing their workload.
“He pitched phenomenally,” Baldelli said. “He gave us exactly what we wanted to see. He looked great. He got outs on all his pitches.”
Cave, struggling to keep his batting average above .200 since being added to the roster six weeks ago, stunned Guardians starter Triston McKenzie by ambushing a slider on the first pitch in the fourth inning, driving the ball 412 feet right in front of the Twins. ‘bullpen in center field. Cave’s home run, his first RBI hit in a road game this year, scored Urshela and gave Ober a 3-0 lead.
It didn’t last.
Cleveland woke up its crowd of 20,669 with a three-run seventh, capitalizing on a missed throw by second baseman Nick Gordon to start the rally, then stringing together three line drive singles. The latest came with a two-out, two-strike, too-in fastball from Griffin Jax that Amed Rosario hit into center field, just inches from Carlos Correa’s leap, to score two runs and tie the game.
And he prepared the stomach punch that would still come an entry later.