Oscar Gonzalez hit two homers and drove in five runs, and Austin Hedges added a solo homer as the Cleveland Guardians held on for a 7-6 win over the Minnesota Twins on Friday night.
Gonzalez, the surprise rookie, had four hits and Cal Quantrill (12-5) earned his eighth straight decision. Cleveland scored the first seven runs of the game, including four in the first inning after the start was delayed 1:16 due to rain.
Minnesota’s Carlos Correa hit a two-run homer off Guardians reliever James Karinchak in the eighth, but Karinchak missed the tying run in the second to end the inning and Emmanuel Clase finished for his 32nd save.
“It was a weird game,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “Then they kept coming and we got a little sloppy but luckily happy the game is over now, it didn’t last another round because I don’t know.”
The Guardians extended their lead in American League Central to 1 1/2 games over the Chicago White Sox and 2 1/2 over Minnesota. The Guardians and the Twins will play seven more times over the next two weeks.
Quantrill allowed two runs – one earned – and nine hits in five innings. The Guardians have retained first place despite losing nine of their previous 13 games.
“Obviously they fought their way back, but I thought we had them under control, for the most part, the whole game,” Quantrill said. “These are important games to win. We have to beat them if we want to have a chance at the playoffs.
Minnesota starter Dylan Bundy (8-7) hit season highs with seven runs and 12 hits in 4 2/3 innings. The Twins lost seven of nine and fell to third place behind Chicago, which rallied to beat Oakland.
“I think today’s game says a lot,” Correa said. “We are never out of a game. They have a great bullpen and we are able to bounce back and make it a really close game and get them to use their high leverage guys. There are a lot of positives we can take from today’s game even though we didn’t get the W.”
Friday’s game looked like two teams struggling instead of a clash of teams battling for the playoffs. There were multiple errors from each team and Cleveland made two errors. There was also a lot of drama.
Correa had four hits, a home run for the third straight game and had four runs on the comeback.
Before Correa’s home run against Karinchak, Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli asked the referees to check the pitcher for illegal substances. Karinchak would touch the back of his head and head for the rosin bag before each throw.
“I think I have an obligation to our players and to our team to do what I think is right,” Baldelli said. “And I think it would have been difficult for me and our group as a whole to watch their pitcher do the things that he does on the mound, in a very direct and direct way of trying to apparently change some things . The last thing in the world I want to do is go out there and ask for a player check. It’s not something I’ve ever done. It’s not something I really considered doing, until I watched this young guy pitch.
Plate umpire Ted Barrett did a full check on Karinchak, even running his hand through his hair. Barrett told a reporter from the pool that he found nothing when he checked.
Karinchak had his 24 2/3 scoreless streak and nearly hit Jose Miranda with a pitch after the Correa homer.
“They think I was cheating, but I have no worries because it’s sweat and rosin,” Karinchak said.
RHP Triston McKenzie (9-11, 3.18 ERA) starts for Cleveland in Game 2 of the series on Saturday night. Minnesota blocks with RHP Chris Archer (2-7, 4.47).