By STEVE HERRICK
CLEVELAND (AP) — Andrés Giménez watched his home run clear the center-field fence, kissed his bat and then flipped it while turning toward Minnesota’s stunned dugout.
For the second day in a row, the Cleveland Guardians won a game they probably should have lost and handed the Twins another crushing defeat.
Giménez blasted a two-run homer in the ninth inning as the Guardians walked off against the Twins again, beating their AL Central rivals 5-3 on Thursday to take the five-game series and move within one game of first place.
When he crossed the plate, Giménez was splashed with water and bubble gum rained down on his head as the Guardians, who had only one hit through seven innings, celebrated their 17th last at-bat win — the most in the majors.
On Wednesday, Josh Naylor’s two-run homer in the 10th inning sent the Guardians past the Twins, whose bullpen has imploded against Cleveland several times this season.
“We keep fighting until the end,” Giménez said.
Six of Cleveland’s last at-bat wins have come against the Twins. The teams don’t play again until September, when they meet seven times.
“I’m glad they’re gone,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “That’s a lot and they’re good. I thought we played them pretty tough, but they’re a good team. They’ll be around. They’re a good team.”
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli called Wednesday’s loss “excruciating” when he met with reporters Thursday morning. He was searching for a similar word several hours later.
“Probably the most difficult series I’ve ever been a part of,” he said. “I’ve never seen five games against one team in four days that felt like that.”
Giménez went deep to center on a 3-2 pitch from Tyler Thornburg (0-1) as Minnesota’s bullpen imploded again.
José Ramírez drew a leadoff walk, the 10th allowed by Minnesota. Naylor’s groundout moved Ramírez to second and Owen Miller flied out.
Giménez, who followed with his game-winner, would like to find a less dramatic way to win.
“We’re gonna go up and down and we just have to be as a group and putting great at-bats together,” he said. “Hopefully things are gonna change, but we’re getting the wins. That’s all that matters.”
The Twins failed to hold a 6-3 lead in the 10th inning on Wednesday night, when the Guardians scored four times and won the game on Naylor’s two-run homer. Emilio Pagán and Jharel Cotton couldn’t the lead, and Minnesota’s bullpen problems returned less than 24 hours later.
The Twins outhomered the Guardians 10-2 in the series.
Thanks to José Miranda’s three-run double in the third, the Twins took a 3-1 lead into the eighth. Thornburg retired the first batter but hit Giménez with a pitch and walked Franmil Reyes and Sandy León to load the bases.
Shortstop Carlos Correa made a diving stop of Myles Straw’s sharply hit grounder. Giménez scored and Reyes came home when Correa threw wildly to third to tie the game.
Emmanuel Clase (2-2) pitched the ninth.
Chris Archer walked four straight hitters with two outs in the second, including a free pass to Kwan with the bases loaded. Archer was pulled after throwing 90 pitches in four innings. He walked six and struck out two.
Shane Bieber allowed five hits, struck out five and walked two in six innings.
The series finale marked the finale day of Wes Johnson’s tenure as Minnesota’s pitching coach. Johnson is leaving the Twins to assume the same role at LSU.
“Not an easy day,” Baldelli said. “Wes will be on the plane with us. He’ll fly back with us to Minnesota. We’ll have some time to decompress and talk a little bit. Some emotions will be present.”
Johnson joined the Twins in 2019 after coaching at Arkansas.
Bullpen coach Pete Maki and assistant pitching coach Luis Ramirez are expected to play major roles in Johnson’s absence.
HIT IN THE HEAD
Following his home run Wednesday, Naylor head-butted Francona, who was wearing a batting helmet. General manager Mike Chernoff said Naylor apologized to Francona on Thursday.
“He was like, I didn’t realize that I did that,” Chernoff said. “It was pretty funny. When Tito came in (Thursday), his glasses were all crooked. He had to go and get them taken in and fixed.”
Twins: INF Jorge Polanco was given the day off after playing the second game of Tuesday’s doubleheader and Wednesday night. He missed 14 games with lower back tightness.
Guardians: Rookie outfielder Oscar Gonzalez was a late scratch from the lineup because of right abdominal tightness. RHP James Karinchak’s rehab assignment (sore back) ended Thursday. He will rejoin the Guardians or be optioned to Triple-A Columbus.
Twins: RHP Joe Ryan (6-3, 3.20 ERA) will start the opener of a three-game home series against Baltimore on Friday night.
Guardians: RHP Aaron Civale (2-4, 7.20 ERA) faces the New York Yankees in the opener of a three-game series Friday night at Progressive Field.
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