MINNEAPOLIS — Triston McKenzie pitched seven shutout innings, Amed Rosario hit a two-run homer and the AL Central-leading Cleveland Guardians held on to beat the Minnesota Twins 6-4 Saturday night.
José Ramírez went 3 for 4 with two runs, a walk and an RBI for Cleveland, which improved to 13-5 in its last 18 road games and stayed 1½ games ahead of Chicago in the three-team division race. Minnesota dropped 3½ games back and fell to .500 for the first time since April 24.
The Guardians, who are 8-5 against the Twins this year, will try to complete their second series sweep since the All-Star break on Sunday. They won all three games at Detroit on Aug. 9-11.
After turning a 7-0 deficit into a one-run loss Friday night, their rally finally halted in the eighth inning with the potential tying run on second base, the Twins again snapped to life late. They trailed 6-0 before a four-run ninth that got tense enough for All-Star closer Emmanuel Clase to be summoned for the final out.
After a sacrifice fly by Gio Urshela, an RBI double by Jake Cave and an RBI single by Luis Arraez — whose two earlier doubles were wasted — Carlos Correa greeted Clase by reaching on an infield single. The errant throw from Ramírez at third base allowed Arraez to score. But after one more hit, by Jose Miranda, Clase retired Max Kepler on a grounder for his 33rd save.
McKenzie (10-11) won for the first time in four starts and gave the Guardians another postseason-worthy performance, with six hits and two walks allowed. The slender right-hander's breakthrough year has made him a strong candidate to complement two-time All-Star Shane Bieber in a playoff-series rotation if the Guardians can fend off the White Sox and injury-ravaged Twins, who have lost eight of 10.
Even if the AL Central winner is on track for the worst record of the 12 qualifiers in Major League Baseball's expanded postseason field, the playoffs give every entrant a fresh start. The Guardians are carrying a confidence about them that belies their failure so far to pull away from the pack.
McKenzie had a spring in his step all night as he ended each inning on the mound. First baseman Josh Naylor and second baseman Andrés Giménez pumped their fists upon completion of a double play in the fifth on a grounder by Miranda after the Twins put runners at the corners.
Giménez, shifted into shallow right field, made a diving catch to steal a hit from Kepler to end the third inning and strand runners at the corners. Left fielder Will Benson leaped at the wall in the eighth for another highlight-reel snag to deny Kepler.
ALL OVER THE PLACE
Twins starter Chris Archer (2-8) lasted only two innings because of tightness in his right pectoral muscle, and the game spiraled out of control — literally out of control — when Cole Sands relieved for the third. The rookie right-hander threw only 16 strikes in 39 pitches that inning, giving up two runs on four walks and two hit batters — without a hit.
The Twins are 1-10 in Archer's last 11 starts, over which he has a 6.35 ERA. The right-hander, who's being managed carefully in his return from two injury-limited seasons, had a 3.14 ERA over his first 14 turns. He has not finished more than five innings this year.
Guardians: RHPs Aaron Civale (forearm inflammation) and Zach Plesac (broken hand) would both be eligible to return to the rotation Wednesday. They went on the injured list Aug. 30.
Twins: 2B Jorge Polanco (knee inflammation), who has missed the last 10 games, could be reinstated from the injured list sometime during the next series, manager Rocco Baldelli said. The Twins have 16 players on the IL.
Guardians: Bieber (9-8, 2.96 ERA) will pitch Sunday afternoon. He's 5-2 with a 1.79 ERA over his last eight starts.
Twins: Rookie RHP Josh Winder (4-3, 3.77 ERA) is expected to be called up from Triple-A St. Paul to take the mound for the final game of the series. He made six starts earlier this season before landing on the injured list with a shoulder impingement.
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