Twins held quiet in series finale loss to Cleveland

CLEVELAND — The Twins are leaving Cleveland with a pair of wins and a six-game lead in the division over their closest division foe. It could have been larger, if not for a fantastic effort from the Guardians’ defense combined with strong pitching performances that helped prevent the Twins from pulling off a sweep and giving them a commanding lead in the division.

While they were close all day, the Twins fell 2-1 to Cleveland on Wednesday in the series finale at Progressive Field. It was the last meeting between the two teams this season and it decided the tiebreaker, which the Guardians have now earned in the event that the two teams finish the season with the same record atop the division.

But with the Twins (73-67) taking the first two games, there’s a good chance that won’t matter down the road.

“We’re leaving this series very happy with ourselves and what we’ve done,” catcher Ryan Jeffers said.

The Twins, who scored 20 runs on Monday and eight on Tuesday, collected just two hits on Wednesday, though a few potential hits — like the balls Willi Castro and Jeffers hit to left fielder Will Brennan and center fielder Myles Straw respectively in the second inning with a runner in scoring position — were wiped away by the Guardians’ (67-73) defense.

Their first hit of the game was an Andrew Stevenson single, accounting for their only run on the day. Castro, who walked to lead off the fifth inning, scored on the play. That halved the Guardians’ lead, though the Twins could draw no closer.

“You could point to more than a half dozen at-bats today where you were really happy with what the guys did at the plate and we really didn’t get anything,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We didn’t get any of the good stuff out of it, the extra-base hits and the runs and stuff like that. That happens every once in a while.”

Starter Joe Ryan gave up two runs in his four innings of work, both coming on hits by Brennan that drove in Andrés Giménez. His start was interrupted by a rain delay that lasted more than an hour.

Baldelli said had the delay been 10-15 minutes longer, that would have spelled the end of Ryan’s day. But instead, Ryan said he threw a bit to stay loose and when he returned, he collected last out of the third inning and then pitched the fourth before departing.

Converted starter Louie Varland followed him into the game, throwing three-plus scoreless innings in his major league bullpen debut. Varland had retired the first nine batters he faced before running into some trouble in the eighth inning, allowing a single and a walk before Kody Funderburk came in and extracted the Twins from the jam.

The Twins then went down quietly against all-star closer Emmanuel Clase in the ninth inning, sending them home from a road trip to Texas and Cleveland 4-2 and well positioned for the stretch run moving forward.

“It’s hard not to like the road trip,” Baldelli said. “We did a lot of things that we wanted to do for the last six days.”

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