CLEVELAND, Ohio — Trailing Minnesota by three runs in the 10th inning, the Guardians rallied behind Amed Rosario’s fourth hit of the game and a dramatic walk-off home run by Josh Naylor for a 7-6 comeback victory Wednesday at Progressive Field.
Rosario doubled off Twins reliever Emilio Pagan to score the additional runner, Richie Palacios, and move Steven Kwan to third. Kwan scored on a passed ball by Twins catcher Ryan Jeffers before Naylor connected for his ninth home run, a two-run shot over the wall in left off Minnesota’s Jharel Cotton.
Naylor’s home run ignited a wild celebration along the first-base line that saw the mild-mannered infielder unleash his unhinged alter ego, one that’s typically reserved for late-inning heroics. Naylor screamed, cursed and delivered a headbutt to manager Terry Francona as the two met near Cleveland’s dugout. Francona, thankfully, had donned a batting helmet in anticipation of the encounter.
Afterward, Naylor said his only concern was walking away with a victory.
“I was just trying to end the game,” Naylor said. “I didn’t want to hit a single. I wanted to end it. I just wanted to win.”
Naylor said he was sitting on a changeup, but Cotton threw him three straight fastballs. He fouled one fastball off before adjusting his approach and taking the next one the opposite way.
“I was just kind of waiting for the right pitch and trying to foul off pitches until I got a good one later in the count,” Naylor said. “I tried to do damage on it, and thank God I did.”
Francona, who jokingly complained of a sore neck from Naylor’s headbutt while talking to reporters, praised the 25 year old for changing his approach once Cotton (2-2, 3.66) got to two strikes in the count.
“You’re just hoping, they’ve got the hole open at short, get a ball through there and let’s keep playing,” Francona said. “That was pretty special.”
Minnesota took a three-run lead in the top of the inning when pinch-hitter Carlos Correa drove in the go-ahead run with a base hit to right off Eli Morgan. Byron Buxton, the additional runner at second to start extra innings, moved to third when rookie Richie Palacios caught a foul fly ball down the left field line by Luis Arraez.
Palacios made a nice play to grab the ball before falling into the netting in front of the seats, but could not recover in time to keep Buxton from moving up 90 feet. Morgan struck out Jorge Polanco and got ahead in the count to Max Kepler before the Twins outfielder crushed his eighth home run into the seats in right to put Minnesota in front by three.
But Naylor’s slicing drive on a 2-2 pitch was Cleveland’s third walk-off win of the season and 17th come-from-behind victory. Morgan (4-2, 2.75) picked up the win and the Guardians moved to 7-2 in extra-inning games this year. Francona said runs count no matter how or when they’re delivered.
“Home runs are welcome from us, but we have what we have and they keep fighting,” Francona said. “If we can score, I don’t care how we do it. Just nice for us to hit a home run every once in a while, and it certainly helps.”
Cleveland jumped in front in the first on three straight hits by Kwan, Rosario and José Ramírez. After a Naylor flyout, Franmil Reyes sent a ground ball to short that Jorge Polanco fielded and threw to second to retire Ramírez. But Ramírez’s slide into the bag caused Luis Arraez to throw wide of first base, allowing Kwan and Rosario to score and Reyes to advance to second on the error.
With a 2-0 lead in the third, Kwan singled and Rosario doubled before Naylor plated Kwan with an RBI sacrifice fly for a 3-0 lead. Kwan and Rosario combined to go 7-for-8 with two doubles, a walk and five runs scored. It was Rosario’s fifth game with at least three hits and the fourth multi-hit effort for Kwan in his last nine outings.
The game changed in the fifth, however, when Ramírez lined into an inning-ending double play at first with both Kwan and Rosario again on base. Momentum shifted to Minnesota when Jose Miranda snagged the smash off Ramírez’s bat at 107.1 mph and dove to tag Rosario before he could get back to the bag.
“That’s got a chance to be 5-0, and instead it’s 3-0 and they come right back the next inning,” Francona said. “That was a big swing for them.”
One inning later the Twins tied the score against Quantrill with a three-run inning that featured Gary Sanchez’s two-out double which was followed by home runs from Alex Kirilloff and Gio Urshela. It was the second time the Twins have gone back-to-back with longballs this season.
For Urshela, it’s his seventh home run this season and fourth against his former club. Urshela entered the game batting .275 and slugging .525 in 22 games against Cleveland.
Quantrill regrouped and retired Ryan Jeffers on a grounder to third to end the inning and then set down the next six Minnesota batters he faced, including a strikeout of Sanchez in the eighth. The right-hander allowed three runs on eight hits with three strikeouts and no walks in a career-high eight innings.
It was Quantrill’s 11th start of at least six innings and his 10th quality start of the season, tying Shane Bieber for the team lead.
“They put barrel on the ball, that was disappointing,” Quantrill said of his sixth inning. “It put us in a little bit of a bind there, but I thought we bounced back well.”
Next: The series concludes Thursday with a 1:10 first pitch at Progressive Field. Cleveland will send right-hander Shane Bieber (3-4, 3.07) to the mound while the Twins counter with righty Chris Archer (2-3, 3.14). The game will air on Bally Sports Great Lakes, WTAM 1100 AM and the Guardians Radio Network.
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