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SPORTS BRIEFING

Guardians rally with four in 9th inning

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Oscar Gonzalez tied the game with a two-run single and scored on Owen Miller’s go-ahead sacrifice fly as the Cleveland Guardians rallied for four runs in the ninth inning to stun the Minnesota Twins 11-10 on Wednesday night.

Gonzalez homered earlier and finished with four RBIs for the surging Guardians, who have won the first two in a three-game series to take a one-game lead over Minnesota atop the AL Central. The teams also meet five times in four days next week in Cleveland.

“Crazy, crazy game,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said.

Carlos Correa hit two home runs for the Twins, who have lost four of five and are 8-11 in June. Max Kepler and Gio Urshela also went deep for Minnesota.

Sam Hentges (1-0) tossed a scoreless eighth and Emmanuel Clase earned his 17th save with a 1-2-3 ninth for Cleveland, which has won 11 of 13 and is 17-4 since May 30. The young Guardians also won their seventh straight series.

Clase has six saves as the Guardians have started 7-1 on their nine-game road trip.

“I feel we’re a special team,” shortstop Amed Rosario said through a translator.

With the Guardians down by three, Rosario and Jose Ramirez singled to start the ninth before an RBI double by Josh Naylor off Emilio Pagan made it 10-8.

Francona said had it been Byron Buxton in center field, not Gilberto Celestino, the ball probably would have been caught.

“(Buxton) was wanting to play, but he couldn’t move around well enough to play today,” said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, referencing a sore knee.

Gonzalez came through with a two-run single off Griffin Jax and reached second on the throw. Gonzalez moved to third on Andres Gimenez’s sacrifice before Miller lofted a fly ball to left-center with plenty of distance as Cleveland completed its latest thrilling comeback.

Miller leads the American League with eight sacrifice flies.

Jax (4-2) took the loss for the second straight night.

Rosario tied a season high with four hits. Gonzalez hit a two-run homer to give the Guardians a 7-6 lead in the seventh.

Urshela, who was a double shy of the cycle, hit a three-run homer as part of a four-run seventh for a 10-7 Minnesota lead. All the runs scored with two outs.

“There’s no one in our clubhouse that’s not (ticked) off right now,” Baldelli said. “We should be a little (ticked) off based on the way we’ve played over the last couple of days and just the inability to get the job done.”

Spotted a 5-1 lead, Twins starter Sonny Gray gave up a home run to Austin Hedges to start the fifth. Three straight singles — with Gray late to cover first base on the last one — coupled with an error by Nick Gordon in center ended Gray’s outing. A balk by Caleb Thielbar plated a run to get the Guardians within 5-4.

Making his second start after missing 16 games with a right pectoral strain, Gray allowed season highs with four earned runs on eight hits in four innings. He had given up nine hits and one earned run over 18 innings in his previous three starts.

Cleveland starter Triston McKenzie entered with an opponents’ batting average of .185, tied with Tampa Bay’s Shane McClanahan for second-best in the majors behind the .150 of the Dodgers’ Tony Gonsolin.

Correa didn’t seem to care.

His first-inning home run landed in the second deck in left field, and his third-inning shot was to straightaway center for a 3-1 lead.

Matching his shortest start of the season, McKenzie allowed nine hits and six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Guardians: DH Franmil Reyes, who returned Tuesday after missing 23 games with right hamstring tightness, did not play. He is expected to be in Thursday’s lineup.

Twins: RHP Bailey Ober (right groin strain) said his past four or five catch days have gone well and he hopes to throw off a mound later this week. … 1B Miguel Sano, out since surgery in early May to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, has moved along in his running progression, started hitting and should take live batting practice next week. … RHP Randy Dobnak (right middle finger strain) recently threw a 15-pitch, fastball-only bullpen at about 75% and has played catch at 120 feet.

UP NEXT

The starters for Thursday afternoon’s series finale are scheduled to be RHP Zach Plesac (2-4, 4.41 ERA) for Cleveland and LHP Devin Smeltzer (3-1, 3.52) for Minnesota.

Cubs go deep in Pittsburgh

Rivas slam, Happ and Wisdom homer, Cubs rout Pirates 14-5

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Ian Happ and Patrick Wisdom hit two-run homers early and Alfonso Rivas added a grand slam off a position player late as the Chicago Cubs routed the Pittsburgh Pirates 14-5 Wednesday night.

Held to a total of two runs in the first two games of the series, Chicago broke out for seven runs in the second inning.

The Cubs loaded the bases and Jared Eickhoff (0-1) then hit Rivas with a pitch. Rafael Ortega doubled to score two and Patrick Wisdom singled home two more and brought up Happ.

Happ sent a first-pitch fastball to the shrubbery atop the center field wall. The Pittsburgh native continued his torrid June and is now hitting .380 with eight RBIs and three home runs this month. He said being decisive and aggressive has helped fuel his strong month.

“Just trying to see something up in the zone,” Happ said. “I got a good pitch to hit there and was able to capitalize. … You need some of those little confidence boosts and then try to ride that out.”

Wisdom homered to nearly the same spot in the ballpark in the fourth.

Eickhoff made his 2022 debut and allowed 10 runs on 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings. He became the first Pirates pitcher to give up 10 runs in his first outing with the team. He also gave up 10 runs in his first start with the New York Mets in 2021.

Chicago starter Keegan Thompson (7-2) worked six innings and allowed four hits. He struck out seven and gave up one run, a solo homer by Diego Castillo in the second.

FUN FINISH

With the game out of hand late, Castillo moved from second base to the mound to pitch the ninth inning for Pittsburgh. He loaded the bases with two walks and a hit batter before Rivas hit a 65-mph offering to the right field seats for his first career grand slam.

Later in the inning, Chicago manager David Ross let relief pitcher David Robertson go to the plate instead of using his designated hitter. The infielder struck out the pitcher to end the inning.

The light moment was appreciated by the 25-43 Cubs, who have been on the other side of a few lopsided scores this season.

“His teammates were definitely enjoying that,” Ross said. “It was fun. It’s the first time I’ve laughed in the dugout in a while.”

ENCORE

After seemingly giving up on the game by pitching Castillo, the Pirates didn’t go away quietly in the ninth. Oneil Cruz drove in Castillo with a grounder and now has an RBI in all five games to start his career, including three games this season.

“It was the Diego Castillo Show,” Pirates manger Derek Shelton said. “You’re trying to save arms playing at 12:30 tomorrow, you end throwing a position player – and sometimes position players throw it and it becomes a game within itself.”

Fellow rookie Bligh Madris hit a three-run double later in the inning after two Chicago errors.

ROSTER MOVE

Pirates: Designated RHP Heath Hembree for assignment to make room for Eickhoff.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cubs: LHP Drew Smyly (oblique) threw a 30-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday.

Pirates: OF Jake Marisnick (left thumb surgery) was moved from the COVID-19 IL to the 60-day IL. He starts a rehab assignment next week, but can’t be activated until July 12. … OF Ben Gamel (left hamstring strain) will go on a rehab assignment this week. … OF Greg Allen (left hamstring strain) will be out until at least the All-Star break.

UP NEXT

Cubs LHP Justin Steele (2-5, 4.27 ERA) will face Pirates LHP Jose Quintana (1-4, 3.66) in the conclusion of the four-game series Thursday afternoon.

Smith started small

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — O. Bruton Smith, who emerged from North Carolina farm country and parlayed his love of motorsports into a Hall of Fame career as one of the biggest track owners and most successful promoters in the history of auto racing, died Wednesday. He was 95.

His death was announced by Speedway Motorsports, which cited natural causes.

His son, Marcus, the current president and CEO, on Tuesday posted a tribute to his father on social media: “I had a wonderful Father’s Day weekend. I am so thankful to be a dad, and to have an amazing dad,” said the post, which was accompanied by photos of Smith surrounded by his family.

“Race fans are, and always will be, the lifeblood of NASCAR. Few knew this better than Bruton Smith,” NASCAR chairman Jim France said. “Bruton built his race tracks employing a simple philosophy; give face fans memories they will cherish for a lifetime. In doing do, Bruton helped grow NASCAR’s popularity as the preeminent spectator sport.”

Born March 2, 1927, on a farm in Oakboro, a small town 30 miles east of Charlotte, Ollen Bruton Smith was the youngest of nine children. He watched his first race as an 8-year-old during the Depression and bought his first race car at 17 for $700.

“The whole idea at that time was that I was going to be a race car driver. I learned to drive, but that career didn’t last long,” Smith said about his early start, claiming his mother prayed for him to find another passion. “You can’t fight your mom and God, so I stopped driving.”

Smith instead became an entrepreneur — promoting his first race at age 18 — and became one of the giants in stock car racing. Speedway Motorsports, the company he founded, was the first motorsports company to trade on the New York Stock Exchange and it currently owns 11 facilities across the United States.

The tracks host NASCAR, IndyCar, NHRA and other series in Hampton, Georgia; Bristol, Tennessee; Concord, North Carolina; Loudon, New Hampshire; Sonoma, California; Fort Worth, Texas; Dover, Delaware; Nashville, Tennessee; North Wilkesboro, North Carolina; Sparta, Kentucky, and Las Vegas.

NASCAR races this weekend at Nashville Superspeedway, a track that was purchased by Speedway Motorsports late last year.

Siragusa had style

(AP) — Tony Siragusa, the charismatic defensive tackle who was part of one of the most celebrated defenses in NFL history with the Baltimore Ravens, died Wednesday. He was 55.

Siragusa’s broadcast agent, Jim Ornstein, confirmed the death. The cause of death was not immediately available.

“This is a really sad day,” he said. “Tony was way more than my client, he was family. My heart goes out to Tony’s loved ones.”

Siragusa, known as “Goose,” played seven seasons with the Indianapolis Colts and five with the Ravens. Baltimore’s 2000 team won the Super Bowl behind a stout defense that included Siragusa, Ray Lewis and Sam Adams.

Siragusa, who played at the University of Pittsburgh, was popular with fans because of his fun-loving attitude, which also helped him transition quickly to broadcasting after his playing career.

“There was no one like Goose — a warrior on the field and a team unifier with a giving, generous heart who helped teammates and the community more than most people know,” said Brian Billick, the coach of that 2000 team. “We would not have won the Super Bowl without him. This is such stunning, sad news.”

Siragusa came to Baltimore as a free agent in 1997 and teamed up with Adams to form an imposing defensive tackle tandem. He finished his career with 22 sacks.

Ravens lose another

(AP) — Jaylon Ferguson, who set an FBS record for career sacks while at Louisiana Tech and then played the past three seasons in the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens, has died. He was 26.

Police said Wednesday the cause of death was still to be determined.

“On June 21, 2022, at approximately 11:25 p.m., Northern District patrol officers responded to a home in the 400 block of Ilchester Avenue for a report of a questionable death,” Baltimore police said. “Once there, officers located 26-year-old Jaylon Ferguson, unresponsive, being treated by medics. Ferguson never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead on the scene by medics.”

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