Gray fans 10, Urshela 4 hits as Twins blank Royals 9-0

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS – Sonny Gray matched his season high with 10 strikeouts and Gio Urshela had four hits as the Minnesota Twins beat the Kansas City Royals 9-0 on Tuesday night.

Gilberto Celestino homered and Luis Arraez picked up three more hits to raise his MLB-best batting average to .336. The Twins moved within a game of AL Central-leading Cleveland.

“We’ve got to continue to keep playing like that,” Urshela said.

Gray (7-3) struck out the side in the second inning, all on called third strikes. He got Nicky Lopez and MJ Melendez swinging in the sixth to equal the 10 strikeouts he had against Detroit back on May 24.

Gray exited to a standing ovation when manager Rocco Baldelli pulled him in the seventh after hits by Salvador Perez and Vinnie Pasquantino. Gray had allowed just one hit through six innings.

Including Tuesday’s scoreless outing, Gray has surrendered just five total runs over his last five starts.

“I feel good with the baseball in my hand,” Gray said. “I want to take the mound with one thought on my brain, and it’s to win the game. That’s just kind of where I’m at personally.”

Caleb Thielbar took over for Gray with a 3-0 lead with two on and no outs, and kept the shutout intact. Thielbar also helped the Twins out of a jam in Monday’s win.

“That’s two days in a row for Caleb to come in in huge spots and to absolutely maneuver his way, dominate his way through some hitters,” Gray said. “That’s huge, what he’s done.”

Zack Greinke (4-8) gave up three runs, only one them earned, in six innings. Minnesota scored its first two runs in the second after an error by third baseman Bobby Witt Jr.

Tuesday was the third time this season the 38-year-old Greinke had faced the Twins. The nine hits were the most Minnesota had against him this year.

“I made a lot of good pitches and they were just hitting balls hard all day long,” Greinke said. “It was a tough day pitching.”

Leading 3-0, the Twins added three runs in the seventh against reliever Wyatt Mills. An error by second baseman Michael Massey helped Minnesota score three more in the eighth.

“We’re right there still in that game with an opportunity again and miss it,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “You can’t let those go.”

Urshela had RBI singles in both the seventh and eighth innings. It marked his first four-hit game as a Twin and the fourth of his career.

The third baseman, who was acquired in an offseason trade from the Yankees, is batting .303 (23 for 76) since July 6.

“I think he’s seeing the ball well recently,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He’s had a little bit of success off Greinke in the past. Sometimes that just happens and we don’t have explanations for that, but sometimes guys’ swings match up just a little bit better against guys’ stuff than anyone could ever expect.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Twins: 2B Jorge Polanco did not play Tuesday, a day after exiting a game with left knee soreness. Polanco injured his knee while sliding into home plate Monday. Baldelli said after Tuesday’s game that Polanco did have an MRI earlier in the day, but it didn’t reveal any damage. Polanco is considered day-to-day.

UP NEXT

LHP Daniel Lynch (4-7, 4.52 ERA) takes the mound for the Royals in the series finale, facing the Twins for the third time this season. Minnesota counters with RHP Tyler Mahle (6-7, 4.26), who will make his third start in a Twins uniform since being acquired from Cincinnati in a trade earlier this month.

Braves sweep Mets, take 2-game lead in East with 3 remaining

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered for the third straight game, Travis d'Arnaud hit a go-ahead two-run single in the third inning, and Atlanta Braves beat the New York Mets 5-3, completing a three-game sweep of their NL East rival and taking a two-game lead in the division with three games to play.

The defending World Series champion Braves have been chasing the Mets the entire season. In the final series of the season, any combination of one Atlanta win or one Mets loss would give the Braves their fifth straight division title.

New York plays its final three games of the season against worst-in-the-majors Washington. Atlanta closed out the regular season with a three-game set in Miami. Should the season end Wednesday in a tie, Atlanta would win the division after claiming the season series 10-9 with Sunday’s victory.

The Braves won five of the last six games in the series, outscoring the Mets 42-19 over that stretch. New York had a 10 1/2-game lead on June 1 but now is the lower in the standings than at any point this season.

It was a lost weekend for New York, which came to Atlanta hoping to clinch its first division title since 2015. Instead, aces Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer lost Friday and Saturday before 15-game winner Chris Bassitt lasted just 2 2/3 innings on Sunday.

Swanson took Bassitt deep to right-center in the first with his 25th homer, and Atlanta took charge with a three-run third. Bassitt (15-9) issued a bases-loaded walk to Olson before d’Arnaud delivered a single up the middle to score Ronald Acuna Jr. and Austin Riley for a 4-3 lead. That chased Bassitt, who was charged with four runs, three hits and three walks.

Olson connected for his 33rd homer to make it 5-3 leading off the sixth, his 410-foot shot landing in the seats in right-center. Olson, in his first year with Atlanta, surpassed 100 RBIs for the second straight season.

Charlie Morton stranded runners on first and second in the first, but he gave up Daniel Vogelbach‘s 18th homer that tied it at 1 in the second. The righty struck out Francisco Lindor with runners on first and second to end the threat.

Jeff McNeil went deep off Morton in the third and Vogelbach followed with an RBI single to put the Mets up 3-1. Morton entered the game having allowed 28 homers, sixth-most in the NL.

Morton scuffled throughout his start, giving up three runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings as the 38-year-old made his first start since signing a $20 million, one-year contract to remain with Atlanta next season.

Dylan Lee (5-1) relieved Morton and pitched 1 1/3 innings, leaving after a walk to Brandon Nimmo with two outs in the sixth. Collin McHugh entered and struck out Francisco Lindor.

Raisel Iglesias faced four batters in the seventh, A.J. Minter faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen converted his third save of the series with a clean ninth.

Jansen leads the NL with 40 saves in 47 chances.

The Braves’ bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA last month, pitched 8 2/3 scoreless innings the last two nights.

BIG NUMBERS

Atlanta leads the NL with 241 homers. And the Braves have their first 100-victory season since 2003.

TWO, DARN HOT

McNeil went 3 for 5 and has multiple hits in five straight games. His average is .326, one point behind the Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman for the NL batting title. In 23 career games at Truist Park, McNeil is hitting .395 with 12 runs, nine doubles, two homers, seven RBIs and four walks. … Jansen tied Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley for eighth place on the career list with 389. He’s also is the 10th closer to have four different seasons with at least 40 saves.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. … Braves 2B Ozzie Albies (broken right pinky finger) is still wearing a cast. … Braves RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique.

ATTENDANCE

The Braves drew 42,713 in their regular season finale, the club’s 42nd sellout of the season. Overall. that’s 3,129,931 for the season – and the most tickets sold since 2000. In 2019, the team’s last full season before the COVID-19 pandemic, Atlanta drew 2,655,100.

UP NEXT

Mets: RHP Carlos Carrasco (15-7, 3.95 ERA) will face Nationals RHP Cory Abbott (0-4, 5.11).

Braves: RHP Bryce Elder (2-3, 2.76 ERA) will face Marlins LHP Jesus Luzardo (3-7, 3.53).