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Sonny Gray leaves early with injury as Twins fall to Guardians again

Monday’s game — an 11-4 Twins loss to the Guardians at Progressive Field — marked the ending to a disastrous season series against the Guardians in which the Twins dropped 13 of 19 games.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Cleveland Guardians
Cleveland left fielder Steven Kwan rounds the bases during an RBI triple in the Guardians' 11-4 win over the Minnesota Twins on Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, at Progressive Field.
Ken Blaze / USA Today Sports
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CLEVELAND — It’s easy to wonder what the American League Central race would or could have been like without so many late Minnesota Twins bullpen blowups against the Cleveland Guardians earlier this year.

The Twins lost five games in June to Cleveland — games they were in late — that meant the difference between a one-game lead in the division and an 11-game lead at that point.

It’s also easy to wonder what the month of September would have been like had the Twins been even marginally healthier. Just a couple weeks ago, in early September, the Twins had pulled back into a first-place tie with the Guardians. But the two teams have gone in the opposite direction since then, the injury-depleted Twins sputtering in September and the much-healthier Guardians pulling away in the division.

Monday’s game — an 11-4 Twins loss to the Guardians at Progressive Field — marked the ending to a disastrous season series against the Guardians in which the Twins dropped 13 of 19 games. It ended with a blowout in which Twins saw two players — Sonny Gray and Sandy Leon — leave early with injury.

“We didn’t play good enough baseball this weekend to get what we wanted. We’re not going to make up any sort of reasons for that. We’re not going to make any excuses. We haven’t and we’re not going to do that going forward,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We went out here, we competed, played some tight ball games. Today wasn’t one of them. We didn’t play good enough.”

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The Twins (73-74) leave town seven games out of first place in the division with 15 left to play, their postseason hopes dashed after a series in which they lost four of five games while fielding lineups that were far from what they had hoped. Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler were among a long list of players who missed the series entirely, sidelined by injuries.

On Monday, Gray was forced out after just two innings — he gave up four runs to the Guardians (80-67) in his shortened start — by right hamstring tightness. Gray landed on the injured list with a hamstring strain in April and has been dealing with this issue throughout the month, he said.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Cleveland Guardians
Minnesota Twins relief pitcher Ronny Henriquez throws during the third inning Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, against the Cleveland Guardians. Henriquez came in for starter Sonny Gray and pitched four innings, giving up three runs on four hits in Cleveland's 11-4 win.
Ken Blaze / USA Today Sports

The past couple starts, he was able to get it to loosen up as he pitched. This time, he couldn’t. Gray said he was able to pitch around 88 miles per hour without discomfort but when he tried to ramp it up, his hamstring wouldn’t let him.

“When I tried to jump on it today, it was more painful,” Gray said. “More uncomfortable than it had been.”

Leon, who has been dealing with knee pain for some time, left shortly after Gray.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Cleveland Guardians
Minnesota Twins second baseman Nick Gordon hits an RBI single in the fourth inning Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, against the Cleveland Guardians at Progressive Field. Gordon also hit his ninth home run of the season in the game.
Ken Blaze / USA Today Sports

The banged-up Twins never recovered from the early hole they fell into after Gray surrendered a three-run home run to Josh Naylor in the first inning. They pulled within a run in the middle innings before Amed Rosario, who has spent the season torturing the Twins, hit a three-run home run in the sixth inning to pull away for good. Rosario went 11-for-25 (.440) with two home runs and 11 RBIs in the five-game series.

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“We’re not going to look at anyone except ourselves,” Baldelli said. “We have to look at ourselves and be real about the way that we played. There were just too many moments, I think, in the series, where it could have swung either way, where they got the better of us and they made the plays and they had the big swings.”

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