CLEVELAND (AP) — Andrés Giménez saw his home run hit the midfield fence, kissed his bat and turned it as he turned toward the stunned Minnesota dugout.
For the second day in a row, the Cleveland Guardians won a game they probably should have lost and gave the Twins another crushing loss.
Giménez hit a two-run homerun in the ninth inning when the Guardians broke away again against the Twins, beating their AL Central rivals 5-3 on Thursday to win the series of five games and take first place in one game .
As he passed the plate, Giménez was splashed with water and gum rained on his head as the Guardians, who had just one hit in seven innings, celebrated their 17th final at bat – the most in the majors.
On Wednesday, Josh Naylor’s two-run homerun in the 10th inning sent the Guardians past the Twins, whose bullpen has imploded several times against Cleveland this season.
“We will keep fighting until the end,” said Giménez.
Six of Cleveland’s last at bat wins have been against the Twins. The teams will not play again until September, when they will meet seven times.
“I’m glad they’re gone,” said Guardians manager Terry Francona. “That’s a lot and they’re good. I thought we played them pretty hard, but they’re a good team. They will be nearby. It’s a good team.”
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli called Wednesday’s loss “unbearable” when he met with reporters on Thursday morning. Several hours later, he searched for a similar word.
“Probably the hardest series I’ve ever taken part in,” he said. “I’ve never seen five games against one team in four days that felt like this.”
Giménez went deep to center on a 3-2 throw from Tyler Thornburg (0-1) when the Minnesota bullpen imploded again.
José Ramírez pulled a first walk, the 10th allowed by Minnesota. Naylor’s groundout brought Ramírez to second base and Owen Miller flied out.
Giménez, who followed with his game winner, would like to find a less dramatic way to win.
“We’re going up and down and we just have to be as a group and put together great at bats,” he said. “Hopefully things will change, but we’ll take the wins. That’s all that matters.”
The Twins failed to hold onto a 6-3 lead in the 10th inning on Wednesday-evening, when the Guardians scored four runs and won the game on Naylor’s two-run homer. Emilio Pagán and Jharel Cotton were unable to take the lead and Minnesota’s bullpen problems returned less than 24 hours later.
The Twins defeated the Guardians 10-2 in the series.
Thanks to José Miranda’s three-run double in the third inning, the Twins took a 3-1 lead in the eighth. Thornburg retired the first batter in a row, but hit Giménez with a pitch and walked Franmil Reyes and Sandy León to load the bases.
Shortstop Carlos Correa made a dive stop on the sharp hit grounder by Myles Straw. Giménez scored and Reyes came home when Correa threw wildly to third to equalize.
Emmanuel Clase (2-2) threw the ninth.
Chris Archer walked four consecutive batters with two outs in the second, including a free pass to Kwan with the bases loaded. Archer was pulled after throwing 90 pitches in four innings. He walked six and struckout two.
Shane Bieber gave up five hits, struckout five and walked two in six innings.
The series finale marked the last day of Wes Johnson’s tenure as Minnesota pitching coach. Johnson leaves the Twins to take on the same role at LSU.
“Not an easy day,” Baldelli said. “Wes is on the plane with us. He’s flying back to Minnesota with us. We have some time to decompress and talk. Some emotions will be present.”
Johnson joined the Twins in 2019 after coaching in Arkansas.
Bullpen coach Pete Maki and assistant pitch coach Luis Ramirez are expected to play key roles in Johnson’s absence.
BLOW IN THE HEAD
After his homerun on Wednesday, Naylor headbutt Francona, who was wearing a batting helmet. General manager Mike Chernoff said Naylor apologized to Francona on Thursday.
“He was like, I didn’t realize I was doing that,” Chernoff said. “It was quite funny. When Tito came in (Thursday), his glasses were all crooked. He had to go get them and fix them.”
Twins: INF Jorge Polanco got a day off after playing the second game of Tuesday and Wednesday-evening doubleheader. He missed 14 low back density matches.
Guardians: Rookie outfielder Oscar Gonzalez was a late scratch from the lineup due to right abdominal tightness. RHP James Karinchak’s drug addiction (back pain) ended Thursday. He will rejoin the Guardians or gain an option for Triple-A Columbus.
Twins: RHP Joe Ryan (6-3, 3.20 ERA) opens the opener of a three-game home series against Baltimore on Friday-evening.
Guardians: RHP Aaron Civale (2-4, 7.20 ERA) faces the New York Yankees in the opener of a three-game series Friday night at Progressive Field.
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