MINNEAPOLIS — They are the team that refuses to lose. It doesn’t matter what the situation, what the deficit, the Guardians play until they can’t play anymore.
The G’s did it again Wednesday night, rallying for four runs in the ninth inning to beat the Twins, 11-10, and extend their lead in the AL Central to a full game.
They entered the ninth trailing, 10-7, following a three-run homer by Gio Urshela in the seventh. They didn’t seem bothered by that fact.
Amed Rosario, who finished with four hits, opened with a single off Twins reliever Emilio Pagan, who was working his second inning. Jose Ramirez sent him to third with a single to right and Josh Naylor doubled off the fence in center to score Rosario and put Ramirez at third. Rookie Oscar Gonzalez blooped a single into center to tie the score at 10-10, but the Guardians weren’t done.
Amed Rosario moved Gonzalez to third with a sacrifice bunt. Owen Miller delivered with the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly — his MLB-leading eighth of the season.
Emmanuel Clase pitched the ninth for his 17th save in 19 chances.
“Just like Tuesday night, that was two clubs who really wanted to win,” said manager Terry Francona. “They came back, we came back. Fortunately when it was over we had one more (in us) because that was a lot of back and forth.”
The Guardians are 7-1 on this nine-game trip to Denver, Los Angeles and now Minneapolis. They are 15-4 in June and have won 17 of their last 21.
They have been touched by baseball gods on this their journey. They’ve won four games by one run and three by two runs. Three of the wins have come in extra innings and they have scored in their last at-bat in six of the seven wins.
Why is this happening?
“We are very resilient,” said Rosario, through interpreter Agustin Rivero. “We never give up and we play with that happiness of playing the game. It is one of the reasons we’ve been able to come back late in these games.”
Happiness is one thing, but the fact that Rosario is hitting .354 (28-for-79) in June doesn’t hurt either.
Anthony Castro had Urshela, who made his big league debut with the Indians, down in the count, 1-2, in the seventh when the Twins third baseman felt the next pitch over the wall in left center to turn a 7-7 tie into the three-run lead. Urshela fell a double short of the cycle as he went 3-for-4.
The Twins entered the game with a 78-50 advantage in home runs and it showed. They left the yard four more times with three of the homers coming against starter Triston McKenzie. But the Guardians’ power game showed itself is well.
Austin Hedges started a three-run rally in the fifth with a leadoff homer. In the seventh, Rosario and rookie Gonzalez homered for a 7-6 lead.
Rosario homered to left to start the inning off Jharel Cotton. It was his third hit of the game and cut Minnesota’s lead to 6-5. Gonzalez, with Ramirez on second after he was hit by a pitch and stole second, hit a 3-2 pitch from Cotton into the left field seats for the lead. It was Gonzalez’s second big-league homer, both coming on this trip.
Anthony Gose started the seventh for Cleveland by retiring Luis Arraez. Castro relieved and retired Carlos Correa on a long drive to the track in left. Correa had homered in his first two at-bats. But Castro walked Max Kepler and gave up a single line-drive to Gary Sanchez to right as Kepler went to third.
Alex Kirilloff, with the defense shifted left, singled through the vacated hole at short, to score Kepler with the tying run. Urshela untied it with his fifth career homer against Cleveland.
Francona used six relievers in Tuesday’s 6-5 win in 11 innings. A short start by McKenzie didn’t help matters Wednesday.
“It was difficult,” said Francona, when asked about running the pen Wednesday. “We actually had plans for Anthony (Castro) to go two innings tonight. Last night everybody who pitched in the game was up at least twice and Shaw was up three times.
“I don’t want to hurt people. They would be willing to pitch, but you can’t do that. You hope that people who understand the game understand that.”
The Twins pecked away at McKenzie for a 5-1 lead through four innings. They leaned heavily on the solo home run, a gremlin that continues to pester McKenzie. Of the 14 homers McKenzie has allowed this year, 12 have come with the bases empty.
“He really didn’t locate his fastball very well,” said Francona. “They had a really good approach. You could tell them were trying to get on top of his fastball because he has life on it. They made him pay for his mistakes.”
Arraez opened the game with a long drive to left field that Steven Kwan caught at the fence. Correa followed with a drive into the left field seats that Kwan couldn’t catch for a 1-0 lead.
The Twins made it 2-0 on Ryan Jeffers’ double in the second. Urshela and Trevor Lanach singled in front of Jeffers to set the table. McKenzie escaped further trouble by retiring the next two batters with runners on second and third.
Kwan tripled home Myles Straw to make it 2-1 in the third. Straw, in a 13-for-101 (.129) skid, reached on a one-out double off Twins starter Sonny Gray.
McKenzie, however, couldn’t keep the ball in the confines of Target Field.
Correa started the third with his second consecutive homer for a 3-1 lead. The Twins turned to their short game in the fourth. Urshela, after opening the inning with a triple that was misplayed by Straw in center, scored on perfect squeeze bunt by Jeffers that rolled under McKenzie’s glove to make it 4-1. Jeffers came around to score on Nick Gordon’s single and a sacrifice fly by Arraez.
The Guardians responded quickly in the fifth as they scored three times to make it 5-4. Hedges, who came into the game hitting .163, hit a leadoff homer to start the rally. Straw and Kwan followed with consecutive singles. When Gordon overran Kwan’s single to center, Straw went to third and Kwan to second on the error.
Rosario made it three straight singles when he beat Minnesota starter Sonny Gray to first on a grounder to second to score Straw and send Kwan to third. Lefty Caleb Thielbar relieved and retired Ramirez on a foul pop to first. Thielbar, with Josh Naylor at the plate, was charged with a balk on an attempted pickoff move to first as Kwan scored to make it 5-4.
McKenzie, once again, couldn’t keep the ball in the yard.
Kepler started the fifth with a homer to left field for a 6-4 lead. When Sanchez lined out to center, McKenzie was done for the night. He allowed a season-high six runs in 4 1/3 innings. He struck out five and walked one. McKenzie’s ERA against the Twins this year is 7.15.
Next: RHP Zach Plesac (2-4, 4.41) vs. LHP Devin Smeltzer (3-1, 3.52) Thursday at 1:10 pm Bally Sports Great Lakes, WTAM, WMMS and the Guardians Radio Network will carry the game.
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