Marathon doesn’t go Twins’ way as Cleveland sweeps doubleheader in 15 innings

Phil Miller

By Phil Miller

CLEVELAND – The Twins lost both games of a doubleheader to the Guardians on Sunday, all but ending their chase for an AL Central championship. But if they succumbed meekly in the first game, a 5-1 defeat, they did everything they possibly could to stave off the sweep in the finale — all 15 innings of it.

But Guardians shortstop Amed Rosario, who drove in six of Cleveland’s 12 runs on the day, hit a hard grounder that Twins shortstop Jermaine Palacios misplayed, and Austin Hedges scored the winning run in Cleveland’s epic 7-6 victory at Progressive Field.

Combined with a noncompetitive Cleveland victory in the afternoon game, the Twins’ seventh and eighth consecutive defeats to Cleveland drop them seven games back of the AL Central leaders — believe it or not, these teams were tied less than two weeks ago — and even a miraculous turnaround in their fortunes over the final two games here would leave them five games back with 15 to play, in a race they must win outright to qualify for the postseason.

One day after a calamitous collapse in the late innings, the Twins suffered in silence for the first 16 of Saturday’s 24-inning day, managing only six lonely hits and just one run.

Meanwhile, Rosario delivered a pair of run-scoring singles to help the Guardians take charge of the first game, and when he blasted a three-run home run midway through the nightcap, it seemed that the game was lost, the series was lost, and the season was lost, too.

But having been outscored 10-1 at that point, the Twins, whose bullpen has blown late leads six time to the Guardians this season, reversed the roles and victimized — temporarily — Cleveland’s relievers. Pinch hitter Jake Cave reached on an infield error to lead off the eighth, Jose Morales singled and Carlos Correa was hit on the hand, loading the bases. Gio Urshela drove home two runs with a line drive to center against Guardians righthander Trevor Stephan, and Gary Sanchez brought Correa home with a sacrifice fly.

After Luis Arraez flew out against Karinchuk, Nick Gordon provided the latest in a series of big hits this summer — a game-tying, rally-capping, two-run homer. As the ball disappeared over the fence, Gordon raised his right hand to the sky in celebration as he rounded the bases.

But the dramatic home run only tied the game, and the Twins quickly returned to their non-threatening ways. Aside from an intentional walk the next time Gordon came to the plate, 13 consecutive Twins went down in order, and the Twins wound up going 2-for-20 after Gordon’s home run.

Both teams scored in the 13th inning, with Gordon scoring Correa on a sacrifice fly, a run quickly negated when Rosario came through with his fifth run-scoring hit of the day, a two-out line-drive single that drove in Ernie Clement.

The game featured one big play after another, from outfielder Mark Contreras throwing out Oscar Gonzalez at the plate, to Gio Urshela making a diving stop of a high hopper and almost simultaneously tagging out Myles Straw as he stretched back to third base. Veteran righthander Dereck Rodriguez — who as a COVID-19 replacement for Trevor Megill isn’t even on the Twins’ 40-man roster — pitched 3⅔ solid innings before being charged with the loss.

The game ended in anticlimactic fashion, on an error by a rookie shortstop, ending the Twins’ longest game since baseball started using an automatic runner at second in extra innings in 2020. This was their longest game since an 18-inning loss to Tampa Bay on June 27, 2019.

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