The Twins inched closer to a division title on Tuesday with a 7-0 win over the Cincinnati Reds and a Cleveland Guardians loss to those never-quit Kansas City Royals.
The Twins are now 80-72. They have an eight-game lead on the Guards with 10 games left in the regular season.
Minnesota dropped Game 1 to the Reds, largely because young starting pitcher Joe Ryan wasn’t quite up to the task. But on Tuesday, the ball went to veteran Kenta Maeda and he stepped up, allowing only a hit over five innings with a walk and eight strikeouts.
The strikeout theme carried over to the bullpen and they struck out six more Reds to give the staff 14 on the night. The offense took it from there, scoring seven runs on 11 hits. Rookies Eddie Julien and Matt Wallner delivered multiple hits, but the Big Bopper was Willi Castro, who also had two hits, including a home run, and made two, run-saving catches in center field.
One major problem emerged during the game. Rookie Royce Lewis, who has been as clutch as anyone on the team, came up limping after he tried to beat out a throw to first base. He later appeared to be in pain in the batter’s box and eventually came out of the game.
The fear here is that in light of two previous knee surgeries, the injury could be serious, but so far the early report is that he is suffering from hamstring tightness. That’s a huge relief.
Bailey Ober gets the ball Wednesday.
Extra innings …
-Former Twins prospect Spencer Steer hit his 33rd double of the season in Tuesday’s loss.
-The Royals are one of the worst teams in baseball, but I wouldn’t want to play them down the stretch because they never seem to give up. Despite 102 losses, the Royals still had a seven-game wining streak in late July through early August. They also are 9-8 in September, 19-20 in one-run games and have 19 comeback wins. The Royals just need to find some pitching.