The pitching is still working for the Twins, but it wasn’t enough on Saturday.
Andres Gimenez doubled home automatic runner Franmil Reyes to start the 10th inning as the Cleveland Guardians won a pitching duel, 3-2, in front of 22,939 on Saturday at Target Field.
The Twins have lost four of their past five games and saw their American League Central Division lead on second-place Cleveland and Chicago drop to two games.
Gimenez was awarded second base on his extra-inning drive off the right-field wall after colliding with first baseman Jose Miranda — Twins manager Rocco Baldelli earned his sixth career ejection arguing the call — and scored on a single to left by Myles Straw.
Gio Urshela drove in both of the Twins’ runs on a solo homer to start the fifth and a single to deep short in the 10th. Devin Smeltzer pitched five strong innings in his first major league start since Aug. 7, 2020. Sidelined by elbow irritation after one appearance last season, he injured his back and neck during rehab and missed the rest of the season.
Called up before the game, the left-hander Smeltzer allowed three hits over five strong innings, including a second-inning RBI single by Reyes. Smeltzer walked two and struck out two before leaving a 1-1 game after five innings and 77 pitches.
Five Twins relievers combined to keep the game even with four scoreless innings – Caleb Thielbar, Tyler Duffey, Joe Smith, Emilio Pagan and Jhoan Duran – before the Guardians touched Jharel Cotton (0-1) for two in the 10th.
Cleveland starter Shane Bieber allowed 11 baserunners on seven hits, three walks and a hit batsman but squeaked out of trouble with the help of seven strikeouts. Relievers Trevor Stephan, Nick Sandlin (3-1) and Emmanuel Clase cleaned up, allowing one run on three hits over four innings.
The Twins left 12 runners on base, including automatic runner Gary Sanchez in the 10th. They failed to cash in on a few golden scoring opportunities, the first after Urshela started the fourth inning with a home run off Bieber that tied the score 1-1. After Miranda struck out looking, Nick Gordon doubled to right and Gilberto Celestino singled him to third to bring Royce Lewis to the plate.
On Friday, Lewis doubled and hit a grand slam in a 12-8 victory over the Guardians, but the shortstop took two stabs at a bunt down the first-base line, each foul, before popping out to first baseman Owen Miller. Bieber then ended the threat by getting Luis Arraez to ground into a force at second.
The Twins loaded the bases with no outs in the fifth inning. Jorge Polanco walked to start the frame, Sanchez doubled him to third and Bieber then hit Max Kepler with a pitch to juice the bases. But Urshela hit an excuse-me bunt that turned into a 1-2-3 double play, and Miranda grounded out to third.
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