Triston McKenzie hit with the long ball twice by Twins, who rout Guardians 11-1

CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – If Triston McKenzie can keep the ball in the park, he has a chance to become something special.

Unfortunately, June just hasn’t been his month.

McKenzie got tagged twice by the Twins for home runs which accounted for five runs and fueled Minnesota’s 11-1 victory Monday night at Progressive Field.

“In the past he’s given up some solo [home runs] which isn’t the worst thing in the world,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “Tonight, I thought his stuff was really good. Even in his last inning the ball was going through the [strike] zone really well. He just caught too much of the plate with too many pitches and some lineups will make you pay more than others.”

The once surging Guardians have lost five straight, tying their longest losing streak of the season.

With a day-night doubleheader looming Tuesday, Terry Francona needed a quality start from McKenzie. He had to settle for getting six innings out of his young starter who allowed seven runs on eight hits with seven strikeouts and a walk.

“I felt I was competitive with a lot of my stuff but I just felt they’re a good hitting team and they were just way too comfortable at the plate,” McKenzie said.

McKenzie, who also hit a batter and was charged with two wild pitches, has allowed 16 home runs this season, but 10 of them have come in June.

“Home runs are a part of the game,” McKenzie said. “I think it’s more just figuring out a way to limit the amount of runs I give up beforehand. Solo home runs are okay because it’s just one run but when you allow those to compound and you give up hits or you walk guys beforehand, [solo] home runs turn into two and three run home runs, that’s when they really change the game.”

Minnesota starter Sonny Gray did not allow a run in seven innings. Gray kept Cleveland’s lineup off balance, retiring the side in order four times. He allowed just three hits and struck out three with a walk.

“He changes speeds, he locates,” Francona said. “He’s really good.”

Gary Sanchez collected three hits, hit his ninth home run of the season and drove in four for the Twins.

The Twins drew first blood in the top of the second thanks to a 430-foot blast to left off the bat of Sanchez, a three-run shot that gave Minnesota a 3-0 lead, after Alex Kirilloff was hit by a pitch and Gio Urshela doubled to right center.

Kirilloff led off the fourth with a single ad Gio Urshella promptly brought him home with a double to left center for a 4-0 lead. Sanchez followed with a single to left scoring Urshela, who moved to third on a wild pitch, to extend Minnesota’s advantage to 5-0.

Steven Kwan prevented Kirilloff from starting another rally in the sixth by throwing him out at second trying to stretch a leadoff single into a double. It was for naught because Nick Gordon followed Sanchez’s third hit of the night with a two-run homer to the seats in right putting the Twins up a touchdown, 7-0.

Carlos Correa hit a two-run homer off reliever Bryan Shaw in the seventh to make it a 9-0 game.

Minnesota added two runs in the ninth off infielder Ernie Clement to make it 11-0. Clement was the first Cleveland position player to pitch since June 29, 2019 when Mike Freeman took the mound.

“It was pretty cool,” Clement, who relieved Jose Ramirez at third and caught in the bullpen, said. “I wish I could’ve gave up less hits but it was cool and it saves the bullpen so that’s good.

“It’s kind of a whirlwind but whatever they need, I’m going to go out and try to give my best – catching, pitching, picking Jose up, whatever, I’ll do it.”

Clement took one for the team as Francona used him to save a reliever for Tuesday's doubleheader.

“That was the idea because with volume of guys we’ve had of guys out there…having somebody down for two games [Tuesday] that’s not good,” Francona said.

Cleveland scored in the bottom of the ninth on a wild pitch to avoid the shutout.