(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 inningand 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 three with the help of the Cleveland Guardians' 7-6 loss to the Kansas City Royals 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 this season. Five Minnesota pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts.
Cincinnati sits 1 1/2 games behind the Diamondbacks (80-72) and one game behind the Cubs (79-72), who hold the second and third National League wild cards, respectively. Arizona defeated the San Francisco Giants 8-4 on Tuesday, while Chicago beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 14-1.
The Reds are also a half-game behind the Marlins, who find themselves just a half-game removed from the third and final NL wild-card spot. Miami (79-73) beat the New York Mets 4-3 on Tuesday.
Hard-pressed for starting pitchers, Cincinnati went with a bullpen game, using four arms to get through the first 3 1/3 innings. The first 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 earlier 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 he aggravated 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