Mahle exits early; Twins beat Royals 4-0 for 3-game sweep

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MINNEAPOLIS – Emilio Pagan pitched two scoreless innings after Tyler Mahle departed with right shoulder fatigue, and the Minnesota Twins beat the Kansas City Royals 4-0 on Wednesday for a three-game sweep.

Jose Miranda homered for Minnesota, which is fighting with Cleveland and the Chicago White Sox for control of the crowded AL Central. Miranda finished with two hits and two RBIs, and Nick Gordon had a run-scoring double.

After Mahle left in the third, Pagan (4-6), Griffin Jax, Jhoan Duran, Michael Fulmer and Trevor Megill finished Minnesota’s second straight shutout. A diving catch by center fielder Gilberto Celestino saved a run in the seventh.

Making his third start since he was acquired from Cincinnati at the trade deadline, Mahle faced eight batters before manager Rocco Baldelli and a team trainer visited the mound in the third inning.

Mahle pitched 2 1/3 innings of hitless ball, walking one. He threw 29 of his 42 pitches for strikes, but his velocity was diminished.

Mahle is going to be further evaluated and the team is expected to provide an update later Wednesday or Thursday.

On July 6, the Reds placed Mahle on the 15-day injured list with a strained right shoulder. An MRI ruled out any serious issues.

Minnesota outscored Kansas City 17-2 in the series, bouncing back nicely from an ugly 1-4 road trip.

The Royals led 2-0 in the first inning Monday, but have gone scoreless in 26 frames since.

Salvador Perez and Vinnie Pasquantino each had two hits for Kansas City, which has been shut out 15 times this season.

Royals left-hander Daniel Lynch (4-8) allowed four runs – three earned – in six innings.

One strike away from getting out of the first inning, Lynch surrendered a two-run drive by Miranda. Of the 50 runs Lynch has allowed in 19 starts, 18 have come in the first inning. Last season, 43.5% of the runs he allowed occurred in the opening frame.

KELLER TO THE `PEN

Brad Keller has been moved from the Royals’ rotation to the bullpen. The 6-foot-5 right-hander last worked as a reliever as a rookie in 2018.

Keller, who was scheduled to start Thursday, has six wins, an AL-high 13 losses and a 4.93 ERA in 22 starts. In two of his last three starts, he allowed eight earned runs; in three innings against the Dodgers on Aug. 13, and in 5 2/3 innings Aug. 2 against the White Sox.

“Many of you probably remember when Brad came up and how dominant he could look in the ‘pen. So, it’s always been part of the conversation. Hate to go into the offseason wondering without actually taking a look,” manager Mike Matheny said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Royals: RHP Joel Payamps was reinstated from the family medical emergency bereavement list and RHP Wyatt Mills was optioned to Triple-A Omaha.

Twins: 2B Jorge Polanco missed his second straight game after leaving Monday’s game with left knee soreness after sliding into home plate, but Tuesday tests all came back OK.

UP NEXT

Royals: Open a four-game series Thursday at Tampa Bay. Neither team has named a starter.

Twins: Begin a four-game home series Friday against Texas. Starting pitchers have yet to be announced.

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

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ATLANTA — Matt Olson knew the Atlanta Braves were too talented to stay in a season-long slump.

That’s why no one panicked when the New York Mets’ division lead swelled to double digits in May. Now the Braves are on the cusp of another NL East title.

“It’s a clubhouse full of guys who want to win,” Olson said. “That’s all it’s been since the moment I walked in. That’s No. 1 on the program.”

Dansby Swanson and Olson homered for the third straight game, Travis d'Arnaud hit a go-ahead two-run single in the third inning, and Braves beat New York 5-3 on Sunday night, 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 closes 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.

“We’ve felt this confidence since the beginning of the year,” d’Arnaud said. “It just didn’t go our way early in the year, but pulling on the same rope, having each others’ backs, not trying to do too much. We’re just trying to play the game of baseball and have fun with it.”

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 Chris Bassitt lasted just 2 2/3 innings on Sunday.

“We still have three games left in the regular season, we’re still going to the postseason, that doesn’t change, but there’s a lot of learning points that we can take from this series moving forward,” Mets slugger Pete Alonso said. “I thought we played well, but the Braves played better. They played excellent baseball this entire weekend.”

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.

“Everyone knew we were underperforming when we were flirting around that .500 range,” Olson said. “It was one of those things where it was trusting the talent we have and the guys in the clubhouse. Everybody was solid, head down, do your work, it’ll turn around and you wind up winning.”

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).