CLEVELAND, Ohio – With Minnesota trailing by three runs in the 10th inning, the Guardians chased down Amed Rosario’s fourth hit of the game and a dramatic walk-off home run by Josh Nellar on Wednesday to make a 7-6 comeback on Progressive Field.
Rosario doubled twins reliever Emilio Pagan to take extra runners, Richie Palacios and Steven Quan to third place. Quan scored on a ball passed by twins catcher Ryan Jeffers, with a two-run shot on the wall to the left of Minnesota’s Zarel Cotton added by Nellar for his ninth home run.
Neller’s home run ignited a wild celebration on the first-base line in which a gentle-natured infielder freed his unchanged ego, usually reserved for late-inning heroes. When the two met near Cleveland’s dugout, Neller shouted, cursed, and gave manager Terry Francona a headbutt. Francona, thankfully, wore a batting helmet in anticipation of the encounter.
Afterwards, Neller said his only concern was getting away with the win.
“I was just trying to finish the game,” Neller said. “I did not want to hit a single blow. I wanted to end it. I just wanted to win. “
Neller said he sat on the changeup, but Cotton threw him three straight fastballs. He fouled a fastball before adjusting his approach and took the next pace against.
“I was waiting for the right pitch and I was trying to foul on the pitch until I got a good pitch in the next count,” Neller said. “I tried to hurt him and I did thank God I did.”
Speaking to reporters, Francona, who jokingly complained of neck pain from Nellar’s headbutt, praised the 25-year-old for changing his attitude after Cotton received two strikes in the count (2-2, 3.66).
“You’re just hoping they’ve opened the hole in a little while, get a ball out of there and let’s keep playing,” Francona said. “It was very special.”
Minnesota took a three-run lead at the top of the left when pinch-hitter Carlos Correa took a go-ahead run with a base hit to the right of Eli Morgan. Byron Buxton, the second runner-up to start the extra innings, went third when he caught a foul fly ball just below the field line to the left of Lewis Arrez.
Palacios played a great game to catch the ball before falling into the net in front of the seats, but he didn’t recover in time to prevent Buxton from going 90 feet. Morgan dismissed George Polanco and the Twins’ outfielder went ahead with Max Kepler’s count before crushing his eighth home run to the right-hander to keep Minnesota ahead by three.