Max Kepler hits two-run homer, Twins blank Guardians 2-0

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CLEVELAND – Max Kepler hit a two-run homer and Bailey Ober pitched seven innings in a combined three-hitter, sending the Minnesota Twins to a 2-0 victory over the Cleveland Guardians.

Ober (2-0) gave up three hits and a walk while striking out six, lowering his season ERA to 0.98 over three starts. Jorge López worked a clean eighth and Jhoan Duran pitched the ninth for his seventh save.

“I felt pretty good in the bullpen and I was calm after I got done with the first inning,” said Ober, a 6-foot-9 right-hander. “I carried the confidence in there and was able to keep it going the rest of the game.”

Cleveland starter Peyton Battenfield (0-3) did not allow a baserunner until Christian Vázquez singled with two outs in the sixth. Kepler followed with a 440-foot blast to right field, driving in the only runs of the ballgame.

The Twins have homered in a franchise-record 17 consecutive games. Kepler has 15 home runs at Progressive Field since 2016, the most by a visiting player.

“I feel like I’ve seen every one of them,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “I think I have. Kepler is very dangerous when you leave something over the plate.”

Cleveland’s best scoring opportunity came in the seventh when Oscar Gonzalez reached on an infield single with two outs, but José Ramírez was thrown out at the plate trying to advance. The Guardians have been blanked four times.

Battenfield worked a season-high seven innings, giving up two hits, in his fifth big-league appearance. The righty struck out seven without issuing a walk, only permitting two hard-hit balls to Vázquez and Kepler.

“I thought I threw the ball really well,” Battenfield said. “Obviously (a perfect game) is in the back of your head, but I was just focused on the glove and driving the ball to the glove tonight.”

Byron Buxton of the Twins went 0 for 3 with three strikeouts, ending his eight-game hitting streak. He also had reached base multiple times in a career-high six straight.

Minnesota leads the AL Central by 4 1/2 games over the Guardians, who have lost nine of their last 13 and are a season-low four games below .500. The teams will meet 12 more times this season.

“Kep had a big swing and Bailey’s outing is all you need when a guy can take over the game like he did,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Bailey is in great form right now. We didn’t want to take our eyes off him in the dugout.”

The game featured six total hits and was played in 2 hours and 11 minutes.


Guardians RHP Zach Plesac was optioned to Triple-A Columbus, but Francona said the four-year veteran is not out of their plans. The nephew of former big leaguer Dan Plesac went 1-1 with a 7.59 ERA in five starts, allowing opponents to hit .374.

“Whether it’s the stress or the emotion of the game, there has been less command this season with Zach,” Francona said.


Twins: LHP Caleb Thielbar (right oblique strain) was placed on the 15-day injured list with discomfort that surfaced Wednesday. “He doesn’t know when he did it, but it doesn’t look like a long-term issue,” Baldelli said.

Guardians: LHP Sam Hentges (left shoulder inflammation) was activated from the 15-day IL. Valuable reliever Hentges posted a 1.93 ERA over five rehab appearances with Triple-A Columbus and Double-A Akron.


Twins RHP Sonny Gray (4-0, 0.77 ERA) takes on Guardians LHP Logan Allen (1-1, 2.45 ERA) in the second game of the three-game series. Gray tied the franchise record for the lowest ERA in March/April, allowing three runs in 35 innings.

Nationals blow 6-run lead, rebound to beat Phillies 8-7

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WASHINGTON (AP) Lane Thomas singled in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals sent the Philadelphia Phillies to their fifth straight loss, winning 8-7 after blowing a six-run lead.

The defending NL champion Phillies have just five victories in their last 18 games and are tied with the Nationals at the bottom of the NL East at 25-32.

“We’ve got to overcome it,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “We’ve got to play better, get consistent in all phases and keep moving forward.”

Alex Call drew a two-out walk against Connor Brogdon (2-1) in the eighth, stole second on a low pitch that catcher JT Realmuto couldn’t make a throw on and scored on Thomas’ single to right center.

“The way Lane’s swinging the bat, if you can get on second base, we can win the game,” Call said. “I look over and the ball’s in the dirt, he doesn’t catch it. Now I’m saying: ‘All right, Lane. Come on!’”

Kyle Finnegan (3-2) pitched 1 2/3 innings for the victory, stranding the tying run on second in the ninth.

Nick Castellanos homered twice, singled, doubled and drove in five runs for Philadelphia, which had scored just three runs in its past three games.

“There’s definitely a lot of positives as a group,” Castellanos said. “Showing some fight. It would have been really, really easy to lay down and allow the way the game started to be the way that it finished.”

Down 7-1 after four innings, Philadelphia tied it at 7 in the eighth. Brandon Marsh worked a nine-pitch walk against Mason Thompson leading off, and Drew Ellis singled with one out. Finnegan came on to face Kyle Schwarber, who hit a ground ball up the middle. Shortstop CJ Abrams fielded it behind it behind second base, touched second for one out, but threw wildly to first and Marsh came home with the tying run.

Castellanos’s second homer, a two-run shot to center in the sixth, pulled the Phillies to 7-3 and Marsh added an RBI single in the inning.

In the seventh, Schwarber doubled with one out and Bryson Scott reached on an infield single. Hunter Harvey came on and walked Bryce Harper to load the bases. Castellanos singled to center scoring two runs to make it 7-6.

Luis Garcia homered and Jeimer Candelario doubled twice and drove in three runs for the Nationals, who have won seven of 12.

Philadelphia starter Zack Wheeler, coming off eight shutout innings against Atlanta, allowed seven runs on eight hits in 3 2/3 innings.

“This one’s on me really,” Wheeler said. “Guys battled back. Just couldn’t finish it out. We know who we have in this room and what we’ve got to do.”

Josiah Gray gave up four runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings for Washington.

Candelario doubled just beyond the reach of left fielder Schwarber to drive in the first of Washington’s two runs in the first.

In the second, Abrams hit a one-out drive to deep center that Marsh misplayed into a double. With two outs and two on, Candelario doubled off the wall in right center to make it 5-0.

Garcia ended Wheeler’s night with a solo homer in the fourth.

“When you come out the way we did, you’ve got to tack on,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “It didn’t happen tonight, but we got one more than the other guys.”


Candelario is 9 for 26 (.346) with four doubles, a home run, nine RBIs, five walks, and seven runs scored in his last seven games.


Phillies: Thomson said RHP Taijuan Walker played catch Friday and there are “no worries about his next start.” In a four-inning outing against the Mets on Thursday, Walker’s sinker velocity averaged 90.6 mph, down from 92.7 mph for the season. His fastball, splitter and curveball velocity also dropped.

Nationals: OF Victor Robles (back spasms) took batting practice on the field for the first time since going on the injured list. … LHP Sean Doolittle (elbow) gave up a run on two hits and struck out two batters in 2/3 of an inning working his second straight night for Class A Fredericksburg.


Phillies: LHP Matt Strahm (4-3, 3.20) will start a bullpen game on Saturday.

Nationals: LHP MacKenzie Gore (3-3, 3.57) went seven innings and struck out a career-high 11 batters in his previous outing – a no decision against the Royals.

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