Guardians romp past Twins, who now trail by seven games in the AL Central

CLEVELAND — The Twins and Guardians played 19 times this season, and each team scored exactly 89 runs against each other. But the numbers lie. As this weekend has shown once again, the teams are nowhere near even.

Sonny Gray got hurt and the Twins got hammered. It’s hard to imagine a more symbolic farewell to a weekend they hoped would save their season than Monday’s 11-4 win at progressive field.

The Guardians won four times in five games, winning close games and blowouts by rallying from behind and leading from the front. They outperformed and outperformed the Twins’ makeshift lineup and inconsistent pitching staff, nearly capturing their first AL Central championship since 2018.

“We had chances to win those ball games. We have to do more,” said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli. “We didn’t play well enough. So we’re going to look in the mirror when we walk out of here and say, ‘We’ve had these opportunities ahead of us and we have to do a better job.'”

Put that on next year’s to-do list because the Twins’ 2022 season is practically over. Monday’s ugly final dropped Minnesota seven games from first place — actually eight, since Cleveland owns the postseason tiebreaker — with just 15 games remaining in an ultimately disappointing season.

Now they must determine if Gray’s season is over, too. The right-hander has been brilliant since the All-Star break, posting a 1.81 ERA in 10 starts before Monday. But he revealed after the game that he pitched this month with excruciating pain in his right hamstring, the same injury that put him on the injured list in April. It was worse Monday, and when Gray left the mound after allowing four runs in two innings, “we realized he couldn’t walk anymore,” Baldelli said.

The manager declined to say Gray’s season is over but noted that “we have limited time so to think he’ll come back to full strength and be able to pitch would be it closely.”

Rookie Ronny Henriquez took over and had a relatively successful major league debut, throwing three shutout innings to give the Twins a chance to rally within one run. Nick Gordon hit a single run home and hit a solo home run, and the Twins loaded bases with an out in the sixth inning. But pinch hitter Mark Contreras lined a pitch to first baseman Josh Naylor, who stepped on the pocket to double up to Matt Wallner and kill the threat.

Henriquez then allowed three runs, Jorge Lopez four, and Baldelli had to turn to infielder Jermaine Palacios to end the game.

“It obviously ended on a really hard note,” Baldelli said. “The series was tough. We’ve lost a few more competitive, closer ball games. You don’t want to end it like that, achieve the series with what we expected, so it’s hard.”

It’s also consistent. The Twins went 8-27 against first-place teams and just 6-13 against the Guardians, their worst performance against Cleveland since 4-14 in 2007. Most annoying is the Guardians’ penchant for late-innings rallies. and pull out tight games. Cleveland’s 13 wins over the Twins included eight one-run wins.

“They just do all the little things right. They play the game, they rush, they make plays. Situational hitting, they do all those things,” Gordon said in a whisper-quiet clubhouse. “They are a good ball club.”

The Gemini, now back under .500 at 73-74, haven’t been able to say that for a while.