Sonny Gray shines in win over Guardians on emotional day for the Twins
A day after news broke that Johnson would be leaving to take the pitching coach job at Louisiana State University, Gray went out and pitched the Twins to an 11-1 win with seven scoreless innings
CLEVELAND — Sonny Gray let himself feel the full range of emotions on Monday. He let those emotions fuel him and then funneled them into one of his best starts of the season. And afterwards, he had a long embrace in the first base dugout with pitching coach Wes Johnson, a man whom he has become close to over the course of the past few months.
A day after news broke that Johnson would be leaving to take the pitching coach job at Louisiana State University, Gray went out and pitched the Twins to an 11-1 win with seven scoreless innings against the Guardians at Progressive Field on Monday night.
“I was mad at him a lot today. I was happy for him a lot today,” Gray said. “I used every emotion and everything that kind of was going through and kind of used it to pour it into the game.”
Gray joined the Twins (42-33) in March in a post-lockout trade with the Cincinnati Reds and immediately, Johnson made him feel welcomed with open arms. It was his personality, Gray said. Beyond baseball, Gray described Johnson as the type of person that “you just enjoy being around.”
And now, after Thursday, he no longer will.
“It’s a tough one,” Gray said. “It’s someone who I’ve become really close with. If you know me at all, letting people in and getting into relationships in that respect, I put my guard up a lot. Wes is someone who was in.”
And that’s what makes his impending departure that much harder for Gray.
But if there was any worry that Johnson’s impending departure would cause a distraction within the clubhouse — and the Twins said before the game they didn’t believe it would — it sure didn’t appear that way on Monday for Gray or anyone else.
“Could it be perceived like he had a tough time with what’s been going on here over the last 24 hours? Maybe,” manager Rocco Baldelli said of Gray. “But he certainly had a different kind of aura about him, the way he was walking about today, and you don’t know what that’s going to mean once the game starts. But apparently, it didn’t stand in the way of him going out there and doing his job very, very well.”
Gray, who gave up four runs (three earned) on eight hits in four innings against the Guardians (36-33) last time out, said he changed his approach up this time around.
Put simply: “It was more of less this time just come in and just attack,” Gray said.
And he did that for seven innings. Cleveland scattered just three hits against him in his effort, which was especially important given the doubleheader the Twins have coming up on Tuesday. Because of his start, the Twins were able to use only one reliever — Jharel Cotton — on Monday, helping save the bullpen for the 18 innings ahead of them.
Gray’s start was backed up by three-hit efforts from Alex Kirilloff, Gio Urshela and Gary Sánchez, whose third-inning three-run home run to left field got the Twins on the board.
The Twins continued to tack on all night, scoring a pair of runs in four more innings. In addition to Sánchez, both Nick Gordon and Carlos Correa hit home runs in the win. Correa — along with many of the Twins’ starters — was lifted late in the game. He was replaced in the lineup by rookie Mark Contreras, who would go on to collect his first career hit in the ninth inning.
“We played a great game on an interesting day, a challenging day, an emotional day,” Baldelli said. “ … he feel in our clubhouse all day long was that of calm and guys just actually pretty normal and having a good day and preparing for a game. I was happy with what I saw before the game and even happier with what I saw during the game.”
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