Andres Gimenez has provided a welcome spark for the Cleveland Guardians, who will face the Minnesota Twins in the finale of a three-game series on Sunday in Minneapolis.
Cleveland has been looking for other hitters to step up since slugger Josh Naylor landed on the COVID-19 injured list on Friday, and Gimenez has been up to the task.
The 23-year-old middle infielder doubled in the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th inning of Saturday’s 3-2 win to help the Guardians even the series.
“Andres has come up with big hits, clutch hits,” Cleveland acting manager Carl Willis said. “He’s done it a few times this road trip. That’s what it takes to keep us going.”
Gimenez is batting .352 (19-for-54) with eight extra-base hits and 14 RBIs over his past 14 games for Cleveland, which has won four of its past six games.
The Guardians also received a boost from outfielder Myles Straw, who snapped an 0-for-21 streak with a run-scoring single in the 10th inning.
Minnesota went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position on Saturday and lost for the fourth time in its past five games.
One bright spot has been reliever Jhoan Duran, who retired the Guardians in order in the ninth and recorded the fastest pitch in franchise history at 103.3 mph.
Twins third baseman Gio Urshela began his career with Cleveland and clearly enjoys facing his former team. He is 8-for-24 (.333) with three home runs and six RBIs in his past six games against the Guardians.
Minnesota starter Joe Ryan (3-2, 2.56 ERA) will look to bounce back on Sunday after allowing four runs over four innings in a 5-0 loss to the Houston Astros on Tuesday. He issued a career-high five walks and threw 90 pitches.
“I didn’t really have a feel for the slider warming up and didn’t really (in the game),” Ryan said. “I got it a couple times, but I didn’t feel comfortable. It’s fine. I got it when I needed it several times, but I didn’t really feel like I had the command to execute the pitches I needed to execute.”
Ryan, a 25-year-old right-hander, is 1-0 with an ERA of 0.75 in two career starts (12 innings) against Cleveland.
Cleveland will counter with right-hander Triston McKenzie (2-2, 2.76), who has won his past two starts.
McKenzie, 24, struck out six over six innings while allowing two runs in a 8-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on May 7. He overcame a shaky start and finished with four hitless innings.
“After the first inning it was really just settling down and figuring it out,” said McKenzie, who is is 1-3 with a 5.95 ERA in four career starts vs. Minnesota.
The Twins made a roster move Saturday by calling up starting pitcher Devin Smeltzer and sending outfielder Alex Kirilloff to Triple-A St. Paul.
Kirilloff, 24, has struggled to regain his form since having season-ending surgery on his right wrist last July.
“I don’t think the best thing for him is to be in a rotation right now,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He’s healthy. He’s in a good spot physically. But hitting, just getting to the plate and figuring that out, that’s going to happen with at-bats.”
–Field Level Media