Patrick Reusse
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Cleveland manager Terry Francona was holding a pregame media session on Tuesday before the start of a series in which his team was hoping to end the Twins' two-month stay atop the plucky American League Central.

An Associated Press reporter offered this reminder to Francona over his early comments on the Twins' Luis Arraez:

"Three years ago you spoke highly of Arraez.''

Francona replied quickly: "I said, 'I think he's going to win a batting title.' Not that we're allowed, can't put money on it, but I wish I could'a.''

The visiting manager laughed and said: "You could kind of see it. I don't know if every year he [would] hit .360, but you get your confidence, you get your legs under you, you feel good.

"You could see he had that ability. You could see it right away, just the way he stood in the batter's box.''

Cleveland had made up 6 ½ games on the Twins since the end of May and came to Target Field only one game out of first.

The Guardians, as we now call them, were off to a 3-0 lead in the first three innings against Twins starter Joe Ryan. Alex Kirilloff's rocket double to right in the fourth cut that to 3-2.

Thus it stayed until the bottom of the seventh. Trevor Larnach drew a one-out walk as a pinch-hitter for Gilberto Celestino.

Now, you might ask why Larnach, a lefty hitter, had been in the dugout, while Celestino, a righty hitter, was in left field against Cleveland's righthander Aaron Civale?

"Reverse splits,'' was the answer, meaning Civale had better numbers against left-handed hitters than right. Of course, that didn't take into account the fact Larnach has a chance to hit a ball off or over a fence, and Celestino does not.

In this case, Larnach drew a walk and Francona went to his second reliever, righthander Eli Morgan. Ryan Jeffers smacked a double to left, putting the tying runs in scoring position.

The hitter was Arraez — even more impressive now, with that .361 batting average at game time, than when Francona was predicting at least one batting title for him in 2020.

It had to be tempting for Francona to give a nod for a bases-filling intentional walk. Of course, 122 years of American League baseball says a manager doesn't put the winning run on base.

And Byron Buxton being on deck … well, you might have gotten away with it, but does a manager really want him vowing revenge with 15 games remaining between the teams?

Pitching to Arraez was the pickle in which Francona found himself, and soon the Twins were leading, 5-3, on Luis' fourth home run, a three-run shot into the right-field mini-bleachers.

No surprise, it came after Arraez was down 0-2 in the count.

The crowd announced at 22,341 got very worked up over this, although not so much as to demand a curtain call from the athlete that — in late June, 2022 — should be the most-popular among all those employed with Twin Cities pro teams.

Recency bias, obviously, and Arraez' recency is fantastic.

The moment did not make up for the finish. First, Emilio Pagan blew the lead in the eighth by giving up a two-run home run onto the lawn in center field.

The culprit was Franmil Reyes, the free-swinging slugger just off the injured list. Reyes is Cleveland's version of a Miguel Sano … unreal strikeout rate, low batting average, but when you hit his bat, as did Pagan, there can go a two-run lead.

And speaking of Miguel: Anybody heard anything? I keep forgetting to ask.

The 5-5 tie went to the 10th, neither team scored, and then Cleveland scored the winner in the 11th on Andres Gimenez' RBI single.

The 6-5 victory gave the Guardians a 16-4 record on a run that started on May 30. They were 7 ½ games behind the Twins at the start and now Cleveland leads the AL Central by percentage points.

The Guardians had a day off here on Monday, after winning two-of-three from the mighty Dodgers in L.A.

It was suggested to Francona before the game it had to be "fun'' watching his scrappy outfit win a series in front of three crowds of 50,000 supporting a team with a $260 million payroll.

"That was a long time ago,'' Francona said of last weekend. "That's way back in the rearview mirror.''

That's where the Guardians were not long ago in the Central. Now they are a bumper in front, signaling the Twins to pull over.