MINNEAPOLIS -- Aaron Civale was left to watch as his Guardians teammates started to get on a roll this month. The 27-year-old starting pitcher was eager to rejoin the team and be part of a surprise contender.
Fresh off a series win on the road against the Dodgers and winners of 15 of its past 19, Cleveland got reinforcements ahead of Tuesday night's series opener against the Twins, with Civale and Franmil Reyes being activated off the IL.
Civale allowed two runs in five innings in his first start since May 20, and Reyes hit a game-tying home run in the eighth. José Ramírez, who returned to the starting lineup on Tuesday, belted a double and scored a run.
“I think it’s awesome to join this team right now,” said Civale, who had been out due to a left glute contusion. “A little time away, unfortunate, but the team is rolling right now and it’s just good to be back in the clubhouse.”
Trevor Stephan (3-2) earned the win with an electrifying 10th, striking out three batters with runners on first and second. Andrés Giménez picked things up in the 11th with a go-ahead RBI single to plate Oscar Gonzalez, and Emmanuel Clase locked down his 16th save to close things out.
It’s June and there are 99 games remaining, but being on top of the division is not lost on Cleveland.
“We got a lot of kids that I’m not even sure they’ve been in the Triple-A playoffs,” manager Terry Francona said. “They’re doing a pretty damn good job. I don’t think they need to apologize to anybody.”
Cleveland is in a prime position to make a postseason appearance after going 14-4 so far in June.
“I think anytime you can look at it and say, ‘Hey, we’re contending,’ that’s just a little extra push,” Civale explained. “That’s the goal for the rest of the year.”
Civale was in control early in his return, striking out five batters in his first time through the order and finishing with seven total. The lone blemish on his line was a two-run double in the fourth by Alex Kirilloff.
He had struggled to a 7.84 ERA before going on the IL, but made two rehab starts with Triple-A Columbus, allowing two earned runs in 6 2/3 innings.
“I thought he was good, thought he was really good,” Francona said. “I thought he had a really good breaking ball. I thought he was crisp.”
Ramírez didn’t miss a beat as his hustle double paved the way for Josh Naylor’s two-run homer.
Reyes had been out since May 25 with right hamstring tightness, and was hitting .195 with three home runs before his IL stint.
After hitting .429 with a pair of homers on his rehab assignment, Reyes came through in the eighth despite striking out in his four previous at-bats. His two-run shot to straightaway center field was key to pushing the game into extras.
“He had one big one and that was really nice,” said Francona of Reyes. “There was a lot of good stuff. I thought it was two good teams playing really good baseball.”