(Photo credit: Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK)
Right-hander Kenta Maeda struck out eight and surrendered just one hit in five innings as the Minnesota Twins blanked the host Cincinnati Reds 7-0 on Tuesday night.
Dominating with his splitter, Maeda (6-7) won his third straight start. He allowed only Spencer Steer's double in the fourth inning and walked one.
Willi Castro smacked a two-run homer and Ryan Jeffers added a solo shot for the Twins (80-72), who lowered their magic number for clinching the American League Central to four games. The second-place Cleveland Guardians were playing later Tuesday.
Castro, the Twins' center fielder, also robbed Tyler Stephenson of a two-run homer in the seventh inning as Cincinnati (79-74) finished with just four hits in being shut out for the 10th time. Five Minnesota pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts.
Cincinnati began the night tied with the Chicago Cubs for the National League's third wild-card spot, but the Reds were surpassed by the Miami Marlins, who won their game to move one-half game ahead of Cincinnati. The Cubs were playing later Tuesday.
Hard-pressed for starting pitchers, Cincinnati went with a bullpen game, using four pitchers to get through the first 3 1/3 innings. The initial pitcher of those four, Fernando Cruz (1-2), took the loss after giving up a run in 1 2/3 innings, although he struck out four and did not surrender a hit.
Ben Lively, a starter for much of the season before he went on the COVID-19 injured list early this month, came on in the fourth and worked four innings, giving up five runs on seven hits and four walks. He also struck out four.
The Twins, who saw shortstop Carlos Correa leave Monday's series opener after reaggravated plantar fasciitis in his left foot, took out hot-hitting Royce Lewis in the eighth inning on Tuesday. He appeared to step awkwardly on a swing.
Jeffers' homer, his 11th of the season, extended the Twins' early lead to 2-0 in the fourth inning. They gave themselves a cushion with two runs in the sixth on RBI singles by Edouard Julien and Jorge Polanco, and then Castro's bomb in the seventh, his eighth of the season.
Castro, Julien and Matt Wallner had two hits apiece out of Minnesota's 11. The Reds added two hits in the ninth but saw their bid to avoid the shutout end when Stephenson grounded into a game-ending double play.
--Field Level Media