Guardians top Twins 2-1 to split series, as McKenzie sizzles with 10 Ks in debut
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Triston McKenzie tossed five scoreless innings in his injury-delayed season debut, and Josh Naylor delivered a breakthrough RBI double in the seventh to give the Cleveland Guardians a 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday afternoon that split the four-game series.
McKenzie had 10 strikeouts and only one baserunner, a two-out single by Michael Taylor in the third. The 25-year-old right-hander threw 79 pitches after missing more than two months with a muscle strain in his shoulder that popped up at the end of spring training.
Twins starter Joe Ryan (7-3) was just as sharp as McKenzie until José Ramírez drew a two-out, full-count walk in the seventh. Naylor followed with a drive off the limestone facade that juts out over the right-field wall, putting the Guardians, who are last in the major leagues in home runs, on the board.
Andrés Giménez then greeted Caleb Thielbar with an RBI triple that gave them a two-run lead.
Willi Castro led off the eighth with a homer for the Twins against Enyel De Los Santos. Michael Taylor, who went 3 for 3 with two stolen bases, hit a two-out double.
Royce Lewis, who returned a week ago from his second ACL repair, tried to tie the game by beating out a grounder to deep third. Lewis was thrown out and gave the Twins a scare with a somersault over first baseman Gabriel Arias as they collided at the base. His neck bent awkwardly as he landed head-first, but after examination by the Twins and a slow climb to his feet he walked off on his own power.
Emmanuel Clase posted his MLB-best 19th save with a scoreless ninth inning. He has 14 career saves against the Twins, his most against any opponent. Clase issued a two-out walk to Ryan Jeffers and a single to Kyle Farmer before striking out Castro to end the game.
James Karinchak (2-4) was credited with the victory after a scoreless sixth with two strikeouts. Trevor Stephan, who surrendered a tying two-run homer to Lewis in the eighth inning of a loss in the series opener on Thursday, struck out two in a perfect seventh.
McKenzie’s return further strengthened a solid Guardians staff fronted by Shane Bieber and boosted earlier in the series by the return of Aaron Civale from injury. The Guardians felt good enough about their depth to cut Zach Plesac, who has been struggling in Triple-A for a month, prior to the game to clear a 40-man roster space for McKenzie.
The AL Central-leading Twins, who lead the major league in strikeouts, whiffed 16 times. Three of their best hitters, Byron Buxton (ribs), Carlos Correa (foot) and Alex Kirilloff (illness), were on the bench.
Ryan was coming off his worst start of the year, a season-low four innings and a season-high five runs allowed in a 5-1 loss at Houston on Tuesday, and the right-hander veered back on track with this gem.
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