MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Byron Buxton heard the crowd roar as he approached the steps to the Minnesota dugout, giving him chills that had nothing to do with the ice that had just been strapped to his sore ribs.
Royce Lewis delivered for the Twins again, his highly anticipated career only beginning.
Lewis hit a tying two-run homer in the eighth inning and Willi Castro had the game-ending sacrifice fly with the bases loaded in the ninth, lifting the Twins to a 7-6 comeback victory over the Cleveland Guardians on Thursday night.
“Royce being Royce, he’s ready,” Buxton said. "There’s nobody else you want in that situation to go up there. His positivity and confidence, it’s out the roof.”
Castro was one of three Twins reserves to enter mid-game after Buxton, Carlos Correa and Max Kepler were all pulled for health reasons, but Lewis came to the rescue.
After Donovan Solano’s RBI double brought the tying run to the plate in the eighth, Lewis smacked a 95-mph fastball from Trevor Stephan into the grass berm behind center field to make it 6-6. Lewis, whose first career homer came on May 13, 2022, against Cleveland, raised his right arm as he rounded second base and pointed to his wrist like Correa did during the 2021 postseason with Houston.
“It’s just the Twins’ time. It’s time to play baseball. It’s time for me to have fun again. It’s time to celebrate a homer,” Lewis said, beaming. “So that’s why we do that.”
He also tapped two fingers to his forearm during that eventful home run trot, signifying the metaphorical ice in his veins.
“I was just lucky to be put in this situation to achieve something cool,” Lewis said.
The affable and energetic first overall pick in the 2017 draft, whose 2022 debut lasted 12 games before his second torn ACL in as many years, homered with four RBIs on Monday in his first game of the season.
“He’s on fire out of the gate,” Correa said. “That’s a great player right there with a lot of talent.”
The Guardians are fully aware.
“Royce is a great dude,” said starting pitcher Tanner Bibee, who played against Lewis in high school in Southern California. “It was good seeing him out there.”
Emilio Pagán pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings in relief for the Twins, and Griffin Jax (3-6) worked a perfect ninth for the victory for the Twins.
Michael Taylor led off a four-hit fifth inning against Bibee, who still hasn't won in six starts since his major league debut on April 26.
Eli Morgan (2-1) walked Christian Vázquez to start the ninth. Jorge Polanco, who came off the injured list before the game, followed with a double. After an intentional walk, Castro poked a perfectly placed fly ball to right field that was plenty deep enough to score Vázquez.
“Those guys have picked up some huge innings for us,” Guardians catcher Mike Zunino said. “Blip on the radar. But we’ll get back at it.”
Zunino had a two-run single to cap a five-run sixth inning off Minnesota starter Pablo López as Cleveland's lagging lineup showed more life on the heels of a 12-8 win at Baltimore the day before.
Guardians: 1B Josh Naylor, who jammed his wrist during a slide while stealing third base Wednesday at Baltimore, was scratched from the lineup after feeling persistent discomfort while taking pregame swings in the batting cage. Naylor had six RBIs in that game.
Twins: Buxton was plunked in the ribs by a 96-mph fastball from Bibee in the fourth and removed for his next at-bat. Correa was taken out with aggravation of the plantar fasciitis in his left foot that kept him out of two games last week. Kepler had a migraine headache.
Guardians: RHP Aaron Civale (1-1, 2.84 ERA) will come off the injured list to start Friday night, his first appearance in nearly two months. Civale has been rehabilitating a strained left oblique muscle.
Twins: RHP Bailey Ober (3-2, 2.68 ERA) will pitch the second game of the series. His best start of the season came at Cleveland on May 5 with seven scoreless innings in a 2-0 win.
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