Despite loss to playoff-clinching Reds, Twins on doorstop of AL Central title

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MINNEAPOLIS — The out-of-town scoreboard looms over right-center field at Target Field, and Friday it relayed plenty of news, some good, some bad, for the Twins. Cleveland won in another walk-off, tightening the AL Central race and keeping the uncertainty over whether they will play next week’s wild-card playoff round at home. The White Sox lost, keeping at least a one-game width between Minnesota and its AL Central pursuers.

But a few dozen feet below that scoreboard, the news was much more definitive. To its left? That’s where Mike Moustakas’ two-run homer landed in the fourth inning. To its right? Freddy Galvis planted one beyond the limestone overhang in the fifth. Those home runs were enough to send Cincinnati on its way to a 7-2 victory over the Twins, ending Minnesota’s four-game winning streak and keeping the playoff jockeying alive for another day. The Twins lead the White Sox and Cleveland by one game each entering the final two games of the regular season.

The victory put Cincinnati in the National League playoffs.

Perhaps just as important as the outcome of the game is the health of the Twins’ starting third baseman and center fielder. Josh Donaldson was in the starting lineup and popped out in the first inning. That fact that he didn’t run to first base may have been a clue to his condition, because when the Twins took the field in the second inning, Ehire Adrianza was playing third base. The Twins announced that Donaldson had experienced cramping in his right calf, the same one that kept him off the field throughout August, and had removed him as a precaution.

Byron Buxton was hit by a pitch on or near the head in the eighth inning and left the game.

Jose Berrios, making his final tune-up start before next week’s playoff series, gave up both Cincinnati blasts, plus an RBI single to Nick Castellanos, in a five-inning start that only vaguely resembled his four strong September starts. The Twins right-hander allowed five hits and two walks, struck out seven, and surrendered two home runs for the first time all season. The four runs he allowed were the most since Aug. 15.

That may have been enough for a victory had the Twins gotten a few more well-timed hits, but Minnesota’s bats, which had produced 16 home runs in their past seven games, went quiet. The Twins loaded the bases with one out in the first inning, for example, but Reds starter Tyler Mahle struck out Buxton and Miguel Sano to keep the game scoreless.

Adrianza chipped in with a run-scoring double in the third inning, driving home Max Kepler for his first RBI since Aug. 12. But the next three batters went quietly and stranded Adrianza on second base. An inning later, a one-out single by Jorge Polanco and a double by Mitch Garver gave the Twins another prime scoring opportunity, but Reds reliever Michael Lorenzen struck out Marwin Gonzalez and got Kepler to pop out, ending the threat.


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