***Related video above: Clark Field dedicated to CLE Guardians’ José Ramírez***
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Royce Lewis hit his second grand slam in as many games, giving the Minnesota Twins a second-inning jolt on their way to a 10-6 victory Monday over the Cleveland Guardians that stretched their AL Central lead to a season-high seven games.
Matt Wallner had a solo shot in the third and Jorge Polanco hit a three-run homer into the upper deck in the fourth to perpetuate the power surge for the Twins (69-63), whose 70 home runs since the All-Star break are the second-most in the major leagues.
Kody Funderburk (1-0) was credited with the win in his major league debut, tallying three strikeouts, two weak groundouts back to the mound and one popout behind second base over two perfect innings in relief of a roughed-up Kenta Maeda.
The defending division champion Guardians (62-70) matched their 2022 loss total with 30 games to go. They had a half-game edge on the Twins at the break, but the prolonged absence of three injured pitchers including 2020 Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber and the surprising trade of a fourth starter, Aaron Civale, have contributed to a 17-25 record since then.
The Twins, who have been in first place for 141 of 151 days this season, have only nine games left against teams with winning records. That doesn’t include the Guardians, of course, who are on the schedule five more times including a three-game series in Cleveland next week.
Bo Naylor hit a two-run homer and Gabriel Arias and Steven Kwan each had RBI doubles off Maeda, who went four innings and surrendered all six runs.
Guardians starter Xzavion Curry (3-3) lasted only two innings with six runs allowed. Daniel Norris, promoted from Triple-A Columbus for his third stint with the club this year, relieved Curry and gave up the homers to Wallner and Polanco.
Lewis has three grand slams in just 50 career games. He became the 10th player in baseball history with at least three within his first 10 career homers and the first Twins rookie with multiple slams in one season since Danny Valencia in 2010.
The first overall pick in the 2017 amateur draft came out of the dugout for a curtain call, donning the team’s celebratory fishing vest, after his upper-cut swing crushed a 76 mph curveball into the bullpen after center fielder Myles Straw crashed into the wall trying to snag it.
With Cal Quantrill (shoulder inflammation) due back soon, the Guardians designated Noah Syndergaard for assignment Sunday after just his sixth start.
“I think we probably caught him by surprise a little bit,” Francona said, adding: “Once we realized we were going to do it, we didn’t want to make him fly here.”
Guardians: 1B/DH Josh Naylor (strained right oblique muscle) will begin a rehab assignment Tuesday at Double-A Akron, where he’ll play the whole week before a reassessment of his readiness to return. He has missed 25 games.
Twins: Byron Buxton (strained right hamstring) has been taking part in pregame workouts in CF in preparation for his return to the field. The Twins have limited him to DH duty due to persistent knee pain.
“One day at a time,” said Buxton, who has missed the last 24 games. “When I’m in center, then you’ll see a little bit more excitement. Until then, I ain’t getting my hopes up.”
Guardians: RHP Gavin Williams (1-5, 3.52 ERA) pitches on Tuesday night. The rookie has finished six innings in just three of 12 turns.
Twins: RHP Pablo López (9-6, 3.69 ERA) takes the mound for the middle game of the series. After allowing a total of five runs over a six-start span, including 19 straight scoreless innings, he gave up five runs in his last turn.