MINNEAPOLIS — The Cleveland Guardians aren’t conceding, despite all that has gone wrong for the defending AL Central champions this season.
Kole Calhoun, of all players, sure won’t allow it.
Calhoun hit a three-run home run in the 10th inning to cap a late comeback against the Minnesota bullpen, and the Guardians beat the Twins 5-2 on Wednesday to trim their division deficit to five games.
“These guys don’t quit,” said Calhoun, who joined the club less than four weeks ago. “They haven’t quit since I’ve been here.”
The 35-year-old outfielder, who has been playing first base out of necessity after three other organizations let him go this season, hit an 11th-inning tiebreaking double Sunday at Toronto to give the Guardians (64-70) that series win. They went 4-2 on this road trip.
“It’s a little energy that we needed,” starting pitcher Tanner Bibee said. “It’s not even September yet.”
Five relievers had a hand in squandering another stellar start by Sonny Gray, who gave the Twins seven scoreless innings.
Emilio Pagan (5-2) took the loss despite pitching the best of the bunch. He got the first two outs in the 10th and intentionally walked Jose Ramirez before yielding to rookie Kody Funderburk, who made his major league debut Monday with two perfect innings against the Guardians.
Calhoun crushed his 3-0 fastball into the seats behind right-center, prompting a collective sigh from the crowd of 20,169.
“There’s a lot of trust with him,” manager Terry Francona said, “and he kind of proved us right.”
Said Funderburk: “I gave him a heater, and he hit it. You can’t fall behind.”
Trevor Stephan (6-4) struck out the side in the ninth for the win. Emmanuel Clase pitched a perfect 10th for his 36th save in 45 chances.
The two teams play three more times this year, next week in Cleveland, with only 28 games to go. The season series is tied at five wins apiece. Minnesota has been in first place for 143 of 153 days.
“I think we still are in a good spot as a team,” Gray said. “We just let one get away.”
Gray threw only 81 pitches. He left with a 2-0 lead on Jorge Polanco’s two-run single with the bases loaded in the fifth off Bibee, but that was the last hit for the Twins (69-65).
Griffin Jax gave up a leadoff double to Arias in the eighth inning, and Steven Kwan drove him in with a two-out single off Caleb Thielbar.
Jhoan Duran took his fifth blown save in 28 opportunities after throwing a two-out, two-strike wild pitch that allowed Andres Gimenez to score the tying run. Duran, who has only one perfect inning in his last 17 appearances, put himself in trouble with a one-out walk to Gimenez.
“Keep doing what I do,” Duran said, “and I know that it’ll eventually come.”
Gray scattered three hits and one walk while lowering his ERA to an AL-best 2.92 among pitchers with a qualified amount of innings. The All-Star right-hander, who has taken no-decisions in 15 of his 28 starts, didn’t record a single victory in May, June or July. He won three of six starts in August, posting a 2.04 ERA over 39 2/3 innings.
Bibee had eight strikeouts in five innings, after Tuesday starter Gavin Williams was forced out with knee soreness after only one inning.
Polanco reached base all four times he batted, including a leadoff double in the fourth, but Carlos Correa hitting behind him in the order didn’t help him score.
Correa struck out twice, popped out in foul territory after Polanco’s single in the fifth and grounded into a double play in the eighth, triggering some boos from the fans in the club sections behind the plate. Correa, who signed a six-year, $200 million contract with the Twins during the offseason, leads the major leagues with 28 grounded-into-double-plays.
Guardians: RHP Cal Quantrill (2-6, 6.45 ERA) will pitch Friday to open a three-game series against Tampa Bay. Quantrill has missed nearly two months with shoulder inflammation, his second injured list stint this season. The Rays had yet to declare a starter.
Twins: RHP Joe Ryan (9-8, 4.33 ERA) takes the mound Friday in Texas to begin a three-game series. RHP Max Scherzer (12-5, 3.71 ERA) starts for the Rangers.