The evening began with Michael Pineda addressing his teammates about his drug suspension. It ended with the Twins pulling out a 5-3 victory over Cleveland on the strength of two Mitch Garver home runs.
In the middle, there were all the ingredients that made it a thrilling game. The Twins took an early lead on Garver’s first home run, gave it back, then exploded for four runs in the seventh inning to take the lead for good.
Add that the victory extended their AL Central lead to 6½ games over the Indians, and the Twins were relieved at the end a day that saw their emotions tugged in all different directions.
“Tough day for our team with the things that shook out with Big Mike,” said Garver, whose 28 home runs passed Earl Battey for the most in a season by a Twins catcher. “Everybody knows the situation there. We were going to come out today and compete the best we could. We really put it to them, as did they. Punches were thrown on both sides. They played really good baseball and it’s just one of those games we’re happy to be on top of.”
The Twins did not play like they were waylaid by the Pineda news. Jake Odorizzi struck out 10 batters over 5⅓ innings before walking two batters in the sixth and watching both score to give Cleveland a 2-1 lead.
Offense had been hard to come by for the Twins of late, as they had scored two runs in each of their previous three games while hitting just one home run. Unsurprisingly, they had lost two of those three games.
In between Garver’s home runs, the Twins were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. They stranded the leadoff batter in the third and fourth innings. They actually had runners on second and third in the fourth but failed to score.
But they got going in the seventh, erupting for four runs. Jonathan Schoop drove in Willians Astudillo from first with a triple to center. Max Kepler walked before Garver got hold of a 1-1 pitch from Cleveland reliever Nick Goody and drove it into the seats in right as an announced sellout crowd of 39,573 jumped out of their seats.
“He threw me three fastballs,” Garver said. “The first one was down. I got a really good look at it. The second one I just missed. It was kind of in a location I really wanted it. I was like, ‘OK. He’s got to throw me a slider here. Cleveland doesn’t throw me fastballs. They just don’t.
“He’s got to throw a slider.’ I set my sights where I needed to be on a fastball that if it was there, I needed to make contact with it. It was up, I caught it a little bit deep in my swing. First, off the bat, I thought, ‘That’s a deep sac fly or off the wall.’ And then, it just kept carrying and carrying and you know what? Insanity ensued after that.”
With the Twins training room filling up with players — Jake Cave and Nelson Cruz were kept out of the lineup because of injuries, and Cruz was ejected for arguing balls and strikes from the dugout — the offense had been sputtering. And they had just found out their most effective starter was done for the season.
So, yeah, Garver had a reason to pump a fist Saturday.
“Extremely proud,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “It was a challenging day. There’s been a lot going on. It has been emotional as well. We came were focused and ready to play despite everything going on around us.
“Even the game itself is not the easiest of games. There were some different things happening that could be distracting and really bring you down and our guys just continued to plug on and figure out a way to get the win. It was a good win. Good game and a good win.”