CLEVELAND, Ohio — Aaron Civale allowed a two-run homer to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the first inning Thursday night. Based on Civale’s first four starts this season and his accompanying 10.67 ERA, it was easy to assume which team would be wringing itself out as a winner after a wet night at Progressive Field.
But as anyone with a few gray hairs will tell you, it is dangerous to assume anything in life or baseball.
Civale righted himself and pitched into the sixth inning. Rookie Steven Kwan matched Guerrero’s two-run homer with one of his own and Franmil Reyes not only had three hits, but pushed his 270-pound body from first to third base on a run-and-hit single by Andres Gimenez as the Guardians beat Toronto, 6-5.
Guerrero’s homer gave the Blue Jays a 2-0 lead. If it looked familiar, it means you’ve been paying attention. At the 2019 All-Star Game at Progressive Field, Guerrro hit 91 homers during the Home Run Derby. He didn’t win the event, but a lot of them looked exactly like the line drive he sent over the 19-foot wall in left field for his seventh homer of the season.
Guerrero is listed at 6-4 and 240 pounds. Kwan is listed at 5-9, 170. The fact that they did the same thing for their ballclub — hit a two-run homer — is what makes baseball the people’s game. Kwan’s homer, his first in the big leagues, came with two out in the third and tied the score at 2.
The Guardians were able to retrieve the ball for Kwan. The fan who secured it agreed to trade the ball for a broken, but autographed, Kwan bat.
Kwan, asked if he ever saw himself autographing bats for fans after hitting a big-league homer, said, “This whole thing is crazy. This has been a month of pure ecstasy. It’s been really fun.”
In the fourth the Guardians took a 3-2 lead as Reyes scored from third on a ground out by Amed Rosario. Reyes reached on a one-out single against Toronto starter Jose Berrios. Reyes, on an 0-2 pitch to Gimenez, broke for second and continued to third when Gimenez singled through the unoccupied spot at shortstop.
“We’ve got a very smart guy at first base in Sandy Alomar (first base coach),” said Reyes. “Sandy is always giving you those tips. I had a very good opportunity to steal that base right there and Gimenez hit it to the other side of second and no one was covering third. So I tried to hustle for the team.
“I knew it was a tie game and that makes it easier to get the go-ahead run.”
The Guardians stretched the lead to 6-2 with three runs in the fifth. Myles Straw doubled and Kwan walked with one out. After Jose Ramirez lined out to second, Josh Naylor singled past third to score Straw and send Kwan to third. Reyes singled home Kwan to end the night for Berrios. Gimenez greeted Casey Lawrence with a double to left to score Naylor.
But the Blue Jays’ offense was just getting started.
Civale allowed a single to Bo Bichette and hit Guerrero with a pitch to start the sixth. He retired the next two batters, but Zach Collins doubled to right to make it 6-4 and bring Nick Sandlin into the game.
“[Civale] was pitching so good,” said manager Terry Francona. “Those last couple runs really bothered me. I wanted him to get through the lefty (Collins) because we had Sandlin up. He was approaching 100 pitches (99). I felt those last two runs were mine. I thought he pitched really well.”
Sandlin ended the sixth, but allowed a leadoff home run to Alejandro Kirk to make it 6-5 in the seventh. Bradley Zimmer, traded to Toronto by Cleveland on April 7, broke an 0-for-16 slump with a bunt single and stole second. He went to third on a ground out, but Sandlin retired Bichette, walked Guerrero and ended the threat by getting Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to ground into a force at second.
Bryan Shaw and Emmanuel Clase finished the last two innings for Cleveland. Class retired the Blue Jays in order in the ninth for his fifth save in six chances.
Civale (1-2, 9.45) allowed four runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out eight and didn’t walk a batter in his most encouraging start of the season.
“Today is a day I’ve been working really hard to have,” said Civale. “It’s something I can build off of. This is the brand of baseball that we play. Contributing offensively and defensively and picking each other up.”
Berrios (2-1, 5.34) allowed six runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings. Last season Berrios faced Cleveland twice with the Twins, holding them to three runs in 12 innings.
Next: RHP Shane Bieber (1-1, 2.45) will face the Blue Jays and RHP Kevin Gausman (2-1, 2.27) Friday at 7:10 pm Bally Sports Great Lakes, WTAM and WMMS will carry the game.
Guardians merchandise for sale: Here’s where you can order new Cleveland Guardians gear, including T-shirts, hats, jerseys, hoodies, and much more.
If you or a loved one has questions or needs to talk to a professional about gambling, call 1-800-GAMBLER or visit 1800gambler.net for more information.
More Guardians coverage