In the end, Joe Smith accomplished what he set out to do: keep the Guardians off the board in a scoreless seventh inning. But the roundabout way of doing so might have caused a few heart palpitations among the Target Field faithful.
Smith’s highwire act, a scoreless six innings from starter Devin Smeltzer and scoreless outings from Jhoan Duran and Caleb Thielbar combined with just enough offense helped the Twins win 1-0 and salvage the series finale against the Guardians on Thursday afternoon at Target Field.
On a day where the Twins could get little going offensively — they finished with just five hits, three from Carlos Correa and none in the same inning — Nick Gordon’s solo home run proved to be just enough. Playing in place of Byron Buxton — out as his problematic right knee has flared up — Gordon crushed a curveball to straightaway center field off Zach Plesac in the third inning.
That was enough for Smeltzer, who induced his fair share of weak contact in his six-inning start. Smeltzer allowed just three hits and didn’t walk a batter in before turning the game over to the bullpen.
And that’s when things got interesting.
Smith, entering in the seventh, walked the first batter he faced, allowed a double and then hit the next batter to load the bases. But Smith got Ernie Clement to bounce to Jose Miranda at first, who rifled a throw to Gary Sánchez at the plate for a force out. Next batter Luke Maile bounced to Gio Urshela, who bobbled the ball before recovering and throwing to Sánchez to get the second out on a force. Myles Straw then lined to right for the final out.
The Twins then turned the Jhoan Duran, who worked a scoreless eighth inning, despite hitting a batter. Duran came out to begin the ninth, too, striking out slugger Franmil Reyes before manager Rocco Baldelli came out to get him, a decision that elicited boos from the Target Field crowd.
Brought in to face a lefty, Thielbar gave up a double to the first batter he faced before getting the final two batters and pick up his first save of the season.