By Phil Miller
CLEVELAND — If you’re trying to escape from a deep hole, asking Joe Ryan for a ladder isn’t a bad way to start.
Ryan extended his hitless-innings streak to 11 on Sunday before finally surrendering a single to Tyler Freeman. But he kept his scoreless-innings streak intact, running it up to 14 in a row with seven shutout innings against the Guardians.
In the end, Ryan helped end the most important streak: Minnesota’s eight consecutive losses to the Guardians. With Ryan, Jovani Moran and Jhoan Duran providing the pitching, Jake Cave and Luis Arraez providing the hitting, the Twins shook off the previous day’s doubleheader sweep over 24 agonizing innings with a 3-0 victory at Progressive Field.
The Twins (73-73) must hope it isn’t too little, too late, but their first victory over the Guardians since June 28 sliced their AL Central deficit to six games with 16 to play, in a race they must win outright in order to qualify for the postseason. The two rivals meet for the final time in 2022 on Monday afternoon.
Ryan, who on Tuesday against Kansas City became the first Twins rookie ever to throw seven hitless innings in a start, rolled through a lineup he has handled easily all season, retiring 12 of the first 13 hitters he faced. Freeman’s fifth-inning single broke the spell, and Myles Straw led off the sixth with a double off the left-field wall. But each time, Ryan induced a double play to get out of danger; the Twins turned three behind him.
He also managed a feat almost as rare as a no-hitter: Ryan became the second Twins starting pitcher this season to record an out in the eighth-inning, joining Dylan Bundy’s eight-inning start June 18 at Arizona. He was finally lifted after allowing his third hit, a single with two outs in the eighth. He struck out five, walked two, and hit Andres Gimenez with a pitch. In doing so, Gimenez set a Twins record for most times hit by Twins pitchers in a season (seven) and a Cleveland franchise record for most times hit during a season (21).
Duran pitched the ninth to earn his eighth save in eight chances and protect the Twins’ 15th shutout of the season, three short of the franchise record set in 1967 and equaled in 1973.
Amed Rosario, who bedeviled the Twins with eight hits and six RBIs during Saturday’s doubleheader, was far quieter a day later, going 0-for-4 with a strikeout and a double play.
Cave provided Ryan with all the offense he would need by slicing a Cody Morris fastball wide of the strike zone over the left field wall in the second inning, a solo home run and his second of the series. In the ninth, two walks and a single loaded the bases for Arraez, who delivered a two-out, two-run single off Guardians reliever Enyel De Los Santos.