Correa, Gordon power Twins past Royals 3-2 for series sweep

Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins salvaged some badly needed momentum, entering a last-ditch five-game series at first-place Cleveland this weekend.

Their pitching lately looks up to the task.

Carlos Correa‘s solo home run in the first inning and Nick Gordon‘s two-run shot in the second gave the Twins enough to hang on for a 3-2 victory to finish a three-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals on Thursday night and gain ground in the AL Central race.

“Our guys know what’s at stake, and our guys know what time of the year it is,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “This is what we do all this work for.”

The Twins (72-70) pulled within four games of the Guardians (76-66), who had their six-game winning streak stopped with an 8-2 loss to Chicago in the afternoon. The White Sox (74-70) are in second place, three games out.

“I’m excited because I know it’s important for us,” reliever Jhoan Duran said through a translator. “That’s the season right there.”

Trevor Megill (4-3), who threw the first of five scoreless innings by five Twins relievers, picked up the victory with a perfect fifth. Duran got his seventh save in as many attempts with a tense ninth, retiring his last three batters on a sacrifice bunt and two strikeouts after the first two men reached.

“Anybody can step up in any given moment. Nobody quite has a role, but we’re always ready whenever Rocco calls upon us,” said Michael Fulmer, who pitched a perfect eighth.

After losing nine of 11, including a three-game sweep here last weekend by division-leading Cleveland, the Twins snapped to life against the ready-for-next-year Royals. This was their second sweep of Kansas City in four weeks. Minnesota has a 12-4 advantage in the season series, with three games remaining on the road against the Royals next week.

After Michael Taylor‘s RBI single in the second inning and Salvador Perez‘s leadoff home run in the fourth off Twins starter Dylan Bundy, the Royals put only two runners on until the consecutive singles against Duran to start the ninth.

The Twins outscored the Royals 13-5 in the series and allowed a total of only 13 hits.

Correa is batting .339 in his last 31 games (39 for 115) with eight home runs, 21 RBIs and 18 walks. Gordon’s 11th career home run was his first against a left-hander, Royals starter Daniel Lynch (4-11).

“I thought he got better as he went,” manager Mike Matheny said. “Those last couple innings, we saw some stuff that we really hadn’t seen here in awhile.”

LUCKY NUMBER?

In honor of the baseball-wide celebration of the late Hall of Fame player, humanitarian and Puerto Rico native Roberto Clemente, two Royals and six Twins chose to wear his old No. 21. That included Correa, a Puerto Rican, and Perez, who was his team’s 2021 nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award for character and community service.

Correa and Perez, as fate would have it, both hit their 21st homers.

“You grow up in Puerto Rico learning the history of Roberto Clemente and how great he was. All the people he touched off the field is what inspired me the most and that’s the reason why I have a foundation to help others because my idol, Roberto Clemente, did it,” Correa said before the game.

BANGED-UP TWINS

Twins 1B/2B/DH Luis Arraez, who departed the game Wednesday with tightness in his hamstring, was held out of the lineup as a precaution after an MRI test revealed no damage. The AL batting leader entered as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning for Kyle Garlick, who had wrist pain.

The lineup remained well below full strength, with 2B Jorge Polanco (knee inflammation), CF Byron Buxton (hip strain), LF Alex Kirilloff (wrist inflammation) and RF Max Kepler (bruised leg, sore wrist) leading the list of sidelined regulars. Kepler is the only one not on the injured list.

“We need to bring guys back who can play. Bringing guys back who can play and then maybe need a day or two once they play a game, that’s not going to help us as much as we think,” Baldelli said before the game.

UP NEXT

Royals: RHP Jonathan Heasley (3-8, 5.51 ERA) takes the mound on Friday night in Boston to begin a three-game series. RHP Michael Wacha (11-1, 2.69 ERA) pitches for the Red Sox.

Twins: RHP Bailey Ober (0-2, 4.11 ERA) will come off the injured list for the series opener in Cleveland. He has made only seven starts this season because of a groin strain, with his last outing on June 1. RHP Triston McKenzie (10-11, 3.05) pitches for the Guardians. He beat the Twins last week with seven shutout innings.

Pujols has 2 more RBIs, Cardinals beat Pirates 8-7 in 10

Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals
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PITTSBURGH – Albert Pujols drove in two more runs and the St. Louis Cardinals went on to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 in 10 innings Tuesday night.

Pujols hit a two-run single in the third inning to push his career total to 2,218 RBIs. That came a night after he broke a tie with Babe Ruth for second place on the career list. Hank Aaron holds the record with 2,287.

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol then removed the 42-year-old Pujols at the end of the inning. St. Louis opens postseason play Friday when it hosts a best-of-three National League wild-card series.

Juan Yepez gave the Cardinals the win when he hit a tiebreaking single with one in the 10th inning off Chase De Jong (6-3) to score automatic runner Ben Deluzio.

“Tonight was interesting because you’re fairly scripted in who you want to use and who you don’t want to use and what you want tomorrow to look like so you can get ready for Friday,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “It was a good one to still figure out a way to come out on top.”

The Cardinals threw out the potential tying run at home in the bottom of the 10th when automatic runner Kevin Newman tried to score from second base on Oneil Cruz‘s line single off the glove of first baseman Alec Burleson. The ball deflected to second baseman Brendon Donovan, who threw home to catcher Andrew Knizner.

The Pirates challenged the call, but it was upheld on video review.

“I thought we were going to get it overturned,” Newman said. “I just thought he didn’t tag me until he got higher up on the body.”

It was the Pirates’ 100th loss, the second year in a row they have reached that mark.

The Cardinals got two hits each from Donovan, Corey Dickerson, Knizner and Paul DeJong.

Cruz had three hits for the Pirates and Bryan Reynolds, Rodolfo Castro, Jack Suwinski, Ke'Bryan Hayes and Ji-Hwan Bae added two apiece. Miguel Andujar drove in two runs.

Chris Stratton (10-4) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.

“They weren’t the prettiest two innings I’ve ever pitched but I got a great play from the defense in the 10th inning to help me out,” Stratton said. “It was a good play all the way around.’

Pujols’ hit put the Cardinals ahead 3-1 but the Pirates answered with six runs in the bottom of the third. Andujar’s run-scoring double highlighted an inning that includes RBI singles by Castro, Suwinski, Ben Gamel and Bae.

The Cardinals then scored four runs in the seventh inning to tie the score at 7-all. Donovan hit an RBI single, Dickerson drove in two runs with a double and the tying run scored on a throwing error by Cruz, the rookie shortstop.

Both starting pitchers lasted just 2 2/3 innings. The Cardinals’ Dakota Hudson was rocked for seven runs and nine hits while the Pirates’ JT Brubaker allowed three runs on four hits.

Brubaker was activated from the injured list before the game. He had been out since Sept. 16 with right lat discomfort.

HELSLEY HURT

Reliever Ryan Helsley, the Cardinals’ closer, left in the eighth inning with a jammed right middle finger. Helsley was injured after catching a line drive by Bae and using his hands to brace himself while dodging a piece of a broken bat.

Helsley said he expects to be ready to pitch Friday.

“I don’t think there was anything super wrong with it,” Helsley said. `Just give it some rest and let it resolve itself.”

ROSTER MOVES

The Pirates optioned right-hander Roansy Contreras to Triple-A Indianapolis to clear a roster spot for Brubaker. They also recalled infielder/outfielder Tucapita Marcano from Indianapolis and optioned catcher Jose Godoy to the same club.

PIRATES AWARDS

Center fielder Bryan Reynolds was voted the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award, emblematic of the Pirates’ MVP, by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Mitch Keller won the Steve Blass Award for best pitcher. Former infielder Michael Chavis was voted the Chuck Tanner Good Guy Award.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: OF Tyler O'Neill (strained right hamstring) has been ruled out for the wild-card series but St. Louis is hopeful he can play in the NLDS round if it advances. . 3B Nolan Arenado (left quadriceps tightness) missed his second straight game but could play Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: Have not decided on a starter for Wednesday, though Marmol said LHP Matthew Liberatore (2-1, 5.46) and RHP Jake Woodford (4-0, 2.33) are possibilities.

Pirates: RHP Johan Oviedo (4-3, 3.12), who was acquired from the Cardinals on Aug. 1, gets the start.