The Twins and Cleveland battled like the American League Central was on the line.
Because it kind of was.
Sure, it’s only June, and there are close to 100 games left to play before the postseason picture comes into focus. But after the Twins led the division for a solid month — and most of that time with a multiple-game lead — they’ve now made room for the Guardians at the top.
After an 11-inning grind, Cleveland won 6-5 at Target Field in front of an announced crowd of 22,341 on Tuesday, bringing their record to 35-28. They’re now virtually sharing the No. 1 spot with the 38-31 Twins, but it won’t stay like that for long. There are two more games left in this series, only for the Twins to travel to Cleveland for five games in four days starting Monday.
Heading into this game, the Twins saw their lead diminish to just one game as Cleveland has surged recently. Cleveland had a 15-4 record since May 30, while the Twins had fallen off to 9-11 in that same time. And the early part of Tuesday’s game seemed to mirror that.
Twins starter Joe Ryan allowed three hits and a run off Oscar Gonzalez’s RBI double in the first inning. He surrendered three more hits and two runs in the third, the latter off Josh Naylor’s home run. Ryan managed to last six innings and 101 pitches, though, striking out the final three batters he faced.
Alex Kirilloff helped the Twins finally make an offensive impact, hitting a two-run double in the fourth off Cleveland starter Aaron Civale. Luis Arraez — who still leads MLB in batting average and on-base percentage — blasted a three-run homer to the right-field deck in the seventh inning to grant the Twins’ their first lead.
But Emilio Pagan took the mound with the score at 5-3 in the eighth inning and squandered it, allowing a Franmil Reyes’ two-run homer over the center-field wall that ultimately forced extra innings.
“I made a mistake with it there 3-2, and he didn’t miss it,” Pagan said. “I don’t think it was the wrong pitch. I just didn’t execute it. I threw 17 pitches [Tuesday]. I threw 16 of them right where I wanted to. Life of the bullpen. You make a mistake with a man on and it changes the game completely.”
Andres Gimenez broke the deadlock in the top of the 11th inning, delivering an RBI single with Griffin Jax on the mound.
Pagan admitted to watching the standings very closely since Opening Day, something he said he has done since his days as a fan. So he’s very aware of how hot Cleveland had been playing and what it means now that the Guardians are also on top.
Ryan is the opposite, saying he doesn’t like to look at any stats and prefers to make the majors feel like a “backfield game.”
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli tried to keep the outcome of this one game in June within perspective.
“The standings in June don’t really carry any significance for me,” Baldelli said, “and those are things that we said when we were in first place. It doesn’t matter what place you’re in, as long as you’ve got a chance. We’ve got plenty of games to play. We’ve put ourselves in a good spot to go forward. We need to get ready for [Wednesday]. We need to get ready to go out there and beat these guys and outplay them.”
Megan Ryan is a Minnesota Twins beat reporter.
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