Calhoun smashes three-run homer for extra-innings game winner

August 30th, 2023

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twelve years into his Major League career, had to settle for a pair of minor league deals before the Guardians decided to buy his contract from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Calhoun came from Triple-A Oklahoma City in the Dodgers’ organization and found himself immediately in the lineup for Cleveland. It’s a move that has helped the Guardians stay in the American League Central race.

Calhoun hit a three-run homer in the 10th inning and Cleveland beat the Twins 5-2 Wednesday to win the final two games of the three-game series to shrink Minnesota's American League Central lead over the Guardians to five games.

“He just absolutely mammo’d that ball,” said Cleveland starter Tanner Bibee, who grew up watching Calhoun when the veteran was with the Los Angeles Angels. “He’s been a good little ball of energy for us. I think he’s definitely what we needed when we got him.”

The Guardians scored in each of the final three innings to win their second straight series and four of their past six games.

Andrés Giménez scored on a wild pitch from Twins closer Jhoan Duran in the ninth to send the game into extra innings. Steven Kwan had an RBI single in the eighth for the Guardians, who are now 6-4 against Minnesota this season.

“I think we kind of had to,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said of winning the final two games against Minnesota. “They’re still in a really good spot and we know that. But, keep playing.”

The Guardians host the Twins for three games next week.

“Definitely huge,” Calhoun said. “Played some good baseball when we were here and had a chance to win all three, really did. So, like where we’re at right now and ride this momentum into next month.”

Trevor Stephan (6-4) pitched a perfect ninth with three strikeouts to earn the victory in relief. Emmanuel Clase added his 36th save for Cleveland. After Bibee allowed two runs in five innings, James Karinchak, Cody Morris, Stephan and Clase didn’t allow a hit to Minnesota over the final five innings.

“It’s ginormous,” Bibee said of the bullpen’s work. “They need some kudos after today, for sure, after this weekend, honestly.”

Emilio Pagan (5-2) took the loss for the Twins after intentionally walking José Ramírez in the 10th. Bo Naylor, who pinch-hit in the ninth, was the automatic runner to start the 10th.

After getting Myles Straw on a groundout and Steven Kwan on a flyout, the Twins sent Ramírez to first to set up a lefty-lefty matchup with rookie Kody Funderburk facing Calhoun.

Funderburk, who made his Major League debut two days earlier, threw a 3-0 pitch that Calhoun sent an estimated 433 feet into the upper deck in right-center field, landing above the tall wall at Target Field.

“Laid off a couple close pitches, and got one I could handle and didn’t miss it,” Calhoun said.

Calhoun has hit .273 with three homers and 15 RBIs in 20 games for Cleveland since joining the team on Aug. 5. Wednesday’s home run was Calhoun’s first career homer on a 3-0 pitch. 

“Everybody has a different philosophy and ours is, if you can change the game with a swing or it’s more important the outcome is better than a walk,” Francona said of Calhoun swinging on a 3-0 pitch. “And right there, there’s a lot of trust with him and he kind of proved us right.”

It’s the second time in four days Calhoun has put Cleveland ahead in extra innings. On Sunday in Toronto, he had a two-run double to start a four-run 11th in the Guardians’ 10-7 win.

“These guys don’t quit,” Calhoun said. “They haven’t quit since I’ve been here. We didn’t do it again today and come away with a series win.”