Of MLB’s 30 teams, 20 were in action yesterday, but it was actually a very light day in terms of the Yankees’ top rivals. The rest of the AL East (sans the Orioles) was off, and since the Yanks were playing the Astros directly — and breaking their hearts, much to our delight — we have only one game to review in the Rivalry Roundup.
So let’s get to it!
Cleveland Guardians (36-29) vs. Minnesota Twins (39-32)
The Twins began yesterday out of first place entirely for the first time since April 23rd, and they rode the left arm of Devin Smeltzer to strike back against their surprising top AL Central rivals (the White Sox remain 4.5 games removed from both clubs after losing to the O’s). It would’ve been a brutal blow for the Twins to get swept by the Guardians at home, and they salvaged the finale.
This ballgame was a 1-0 pitchers’ duel, as both Smeltzer and Guardians starter Zach Plesac allowed just three hits over their six innings of work. However, one of those scant hits surrendered by Plesac turned out to be a devastating blow off the bat of the No. 9 hitter, Nick Gordon:
The 422-foot blast was the longest homer of Gordon’s short career to date and just his second dinger of 2022.
The Guardians certainly had their chances to take the lead, or tie it up at the very least. They stranded 18 runners on base and went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position off Smeltzer, Joe Smith, Jhoan Duran, and Caleb Thielbar. The most devastating inning for skipper Terry Francona to watch was the seventh, when Cleveland loaded the bases with no one out on a Franmil Reyes double sandwiched in between an Oscar Gonzalez walk and an Andrés Giménez hit by pitch.
With no margin for error, Smith buckled down and allowed absolutely nothing:
Not even José Ramírez was immune to Cleveland’s woes with runners on, as he struck out against Duran with Amed Rosario on second and one out in the eighth. Gonzalez grounded to Carlos Correa, and another runner was stranded. Giménez’s one-out double in the ninth went for naught too, as Thielbar got a comebacker from Ernie Clement and an elusive K on pinch-hitter Steven Kwan to secure his first career save.
Technically, Cleveland still leads Minnesota by percentage points, .554 to .549, but it’s good for a virtual tie atop the AL Central.