MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Triston McKenzie had another playoff-worthy performance in another clutch game for the Cleveland Guardians.
Whether or not this turns out to be an October tweak, it’s certainly sharp.
McKenzie pitched seven innings and Amed Rosario hit a two-run homer as the AL Mid-leading Guardians beat the Minnesota Twins 6-4 on Saturday night.
“The atmosphere in the clubhouse right now is that these are games to be won,” McKenzie said. “No. 2 in this split won’t make the playoffs, so I think that’s all we have in mind.
Jose Ramirez went 3 for 4 with two runs, a walk and an RBI as Cleveland improved to 13-5 in its last 18 road games and led Chicago by 1.5 in the division game to three teams. Minnesota trailed 3.5 games, falling to .500 for the first time since April 24.
The Guardians, who are 8-5 this year against the Twins, will complete their second series sweep since the All-Star break with a win on Sunday. They won all three games Aug. 9-11 in Detroit.
After turning a 7-0 deficit into a loss on Friday night, their rebound finally came to a halt in the eighth inning, likely to tie at second base, and the Twins came alive late. They trailed 6-0 before the ninth inning of a four-game winning streak became tight enough to bring the All-Star team closer to calling Emmanuel Clase in the Finals.
After Gio Urshela’s sacrificial volley, Jake Cave’s RBI double and Luis Arraez’s RBI single – his previous two doubles were wasted – Carlos Correa hit Clase with a single from the field. Ramirez’s turnover on third base allowed Arales to score. But after Jose Miranda struck again, Klaas had Max Kepler taken down a pitch for his 33rd save.
“We need to better understand the ending. It’s a bit hairy out there,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said.
McKenzie (10-11) earned its first victory in four games with six hits and two walks and five strikeouts. The slender right-hander’s breakout year makes him a strong candidate to round out two-time All-Star Nieber in the playoff rotation, and if the Guardians can fend off the injured White Sox and Twins, they’ve already lost 8 of 10 games.
“The big game is the key. I don’t care who you are and your ERA. If you are a young man, or even a veteran, and you throw a big game, certain emotions take over, ”said Guardian catcher Luke Mailer. “He came out and dominated.”
Even though the winners at AL Central are on course to have the worst-ever record of 12 qualifiers in the expanded MLB playoff field, the Guards’ confidence in them overshadows their inability to come out on top so far. .
McKenzie had a spring in his step all night as he finished every inning on the mound. First baseman Josh Naylor and second baseman Andrés Giménez shook their fists after the Twins completed a fifth-inning brace on Miranda’s field after the Twins put the runners in the corner.
Left fielder Will Benson jumped against the wall in the eighth and grabbed the ball from Kepler. In the third inning, Jimenez moved into shallow right field and dove to catch a hit from Kepler, ending the inning and pinning runners in the corner.
“My immediate thought was, ‘Wow, that’s a hit, maybe a run,’ and then I looked and he was in the air catching the ball,” McKenzie said. “I don’t think there’s a better feeling than this.”
The Twins have scored just 29 points in nine games this month.
“We have a good team,” Miranda said. “I would still say we have to take it day by day.”
Twins starter Chris Archer (2-8) lasted just two innings due to a tight right pectoral muscle, and when Cole Sands let go in third, the game spiraled out of control — literally. The rookie right-hander threw just 16 strikes on 39 pitches this inning, allowing two runs and two batters on four walks — no hits.
“It’s tough to come back and win these kinds of games,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldley said.
In Archer’s last 11 games, the Twins are 1-10 and he has a 6.35 ERA.
Goaltenders: RHP’s Aaron Civale (inflamed forearm) and Zach Plesac (broken hand) will both be eligible to return to the rotation on Wednesday. They were placed on the injured list on August 30.
Twins: 2B Jorge Polanco (inflamed knee), who has missed the last 10 games, could return from the injured list for the next series, Baldelli said. The Twins have 16 players on the IL.
UP NEXT (Sunday, noon, 1060/103.1 KGFX)
Goaltenders: Bieber (9-8, 2.96 ERA) will kick Sunday afternoon. He’s 5-2 with a 1.79 ERA in his last eight games.
Twins: RHP rookie Josh Winder (4-3, 3.77 ERA) is expected to be called up from Triple-A St. Paul for the final game of the series.