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.

Blue Jays clinch playoff berth with Orioles’ loss to Red Sox

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TORONTO — The Blue Jays clinched a postseason berth Thursday without taking the field.

Toronto was assured of an AL wild card berth when the Boston Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-3.

If Toronto holds its current position as the first of the AL’s three wild cards, the Blue Jays would open a best-of-three wild-card series at Rogers Centre next week.

“These guys are excited to be in this position,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said after Wednesday’s 8-3 loss to the New York Yankees. “You’ve got three really good pitchers lined up against a good Boston team, playing at home. So I think it’s more excitement more than it’s nerves or anything. I think the guys are going to come out and be ready to roll on Friday night.”

Toronto became the fourth AL team to clinch a playoff berth, joining division champions Houston, the Yankees and Cleveland. The Astros and Yankees have first-round byes.

The Blue Jays last went to the playoffs in 2020, when they were knocked out with two straight losses to Tampa Bay.

Eight of the 12 berths in the expanded postseason have been clinched: The Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis earned division titles, and Atlanta and the New York Mets are assured no worse the wild cards while still competing to win the NL East. The Dodgers have a first-round bye.