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Sánchez, Gray power Twins past Guardians

CLEVELAND (AP) — Gary Sánchez had four RBIs and Sonny Gray pitched seven superb innings to help the Minnesota Twins stretch their lead in the AL Central with an 11-1 blowout of the Cleveland Guardians on Monday night.

Sánchez hit a three-run homer in the second inning off Triston McKenzie (4-6), sending the first-place Twins on their way to an easy win in the opener of a five-game series. Nick Gordon and Carlos Correa added two-run homers for Minnesota, now three games up on Cleveland.

The Guardians had briefly moved atop the division last week after rallying to win two of three in Minneapolis, but they’ve lost five straight. These rivals will play a day-night doubleheader Tuesday and are meeting eight times in 10 days before not seeing each other again until September.

Gray (4-1) never let the Guardians get going. The right-hander gave up hits in each of the first two innings, then retired 15 of 16 before walking José Ramírez to start the seventh — his first walk allowed in 22 innings. Gray gave up just three singles and struck out three.

McKenzie has been hurt by leaving pitches up in the strike zone — the right-hander has given up 16 homers in 80 1/3 innings, including three homers in 4 1/3 innings last week against the Twins.

McKenzie hit Alex Kiriloff with one out and gave up a double to Gio Urshela before Sánchez pulled a 1-0 pitch into the left-field bleachers for his ninth homer.

The Twins added two more runs in the fourth on Urshela’s RBI double and a run-scoring single from Sánchez.

Gordon pushed Minnesota’s lead to 7-0 in the sixth with his third homer, and Correa’s eighth made it 9-0 in the seventh.

OWNER’S MANUAL

The Guardians have another new boss.

Owner Paul Dolan’s search for a minority investor ended with the team announcing that billionaire businessman David Blitzer has agreed to purchase a 25% stake in the franchise. Blitzer has partial ownership in the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils. He’s expected to eventually take majority ownership with Cleveland.

Manager Terry Francona met Blitzer and said he “seemed like a real nice guy.”

“Personally, I’m happy for Paul,” Francona said. “It seems like a pretty big weight that he now has somebody to help him here, which I think is great.”

STAFF SHUFFLE

Changing pitchers is common. Switching pitching coaches midseason is something else, but that’s what the Twins are dealing with after Wes Johnson announced he’s leaving to coach at LSU. The 50-year-old Johnson, who jumped in 2019 from Arkansas to the Twins, will depart after this series.

“I’m happy for him. I really am,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “This is the best move for Wes. I love him and I love everything that he’s done for this organization. We’re all going to miss him.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Twins: 2B Jorge Polanco (lower back tightness) may not be activated until later this week because of experiencing some soreness over the weekend. He took swings before Monday’s game.

Guardians: C Austin Hedges remained out of the lineup. Francona said the 29-year-old is a “little nicked up” but did not provide any details of an injury.

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