Twins beat Reds 7-3, clinch home field in 1st round
By MIKE COOK Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — There was no excited reaction Saturday night after the Minnesota Twins guaranteed they’ll be at home when the postseason begins Tuesday.
Instead, they took a casual postgame stroll out of the dugout toward the middle of the infield and congratulated each other as though it was a midseason win.
Sunday could bring a much bigger celebration — as division champions.
“I look at that 2019 banner a lot up there at the stadium, so it’d be nice to put another one up there,” reliever Taylor Rogers said.
Luis Arraez matched career highs with four hits and three RBIs in his return to the lineup, and the Twins clinched home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a 7-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
Minnesota maintained its one-game lead in the AL Central over the Chicago White Sox, who beat the crosstown Cubs 9-5. The Twins can wrap up their second consecutive division crown — and the No. 2 seed in the American League — with another win Sunday against Cincinnati or a White Sox loss at home to the Cubs.
If the teams finish tied, Chicago wins the division because it holds the tiebreaker over the Twins.
“You never know what’s going to happen, but if you said that to me before the season started or on opening day, I would probably look right at you very honestly and say, ‘I would not be surprised if this season came down to the very last game.’ And that’s what we get,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said.
Arraez had three of Minnesota’s season-high eight doubles as the Twins made sure there will be postseason baseball at Target Field.
Because Cleveland lost to Pittsburgh, Minnesota is guaranteed to play its best-of-three wild-card series at home, where the Twins are a major league-best 24-6. Minnesota took control of the No. 2 seed in the AL because Oakland was swept by Seattle in a doubleheader.
Tyler Clippard (2-1), the first of four relievers, pitched one perfect inning for the win. It’s his fourth straight outing covering 3 2/3 innings without allowing a runner on base.
Joey Votto had an RBI double for Cincinnati. In the playoffs for the first time since 2013, the Reds can finish as high as fifth in the National League field.
Manager David Bell didn’t see any letdown after the Reds secured a postseason berth Friday.
“I think we still understand the importance of these games. We definitely competed. Both teams still have something to play for. It’s better like that. We need to keep playing that way tomorrow as well. It could affect a lot,” Bell said.
Arraez was activated before the game after missing 13 games with left knee tendinitis.
In his first two at-bats since Sept. 8, Arraez doubled and scored in the first and added an RBI double in the third as part of three straight two-baggers by Minnesota hitters. It was Arraez’s first career multi-double game with hits to left field, left-center and right-center.
“That’s me. That’s Luis Arraez. I like to spray the ball all over the field,” he said through a translator. “I’m grateful that I’m healthy and back in the lineup with my teammates.”
Marwin Gonzalez doubled in the fourth and scored on a wild pitch by Luis Castillo (4-6) for a 4-2 lead. Castillo allowed four earned runs in four innings.
Arraez had an RBI double in the fifth and an RBI single in the seventh.
Cincinnati scored twice against Michael Pineda in the first inning, including an RBI double by Votto, but the big right-hander, Minnesota’s potential Game 3 postseason starter, scattered just three more hits and was done after tossing 80 pitches in four innings.
“I don’t have any particular team that I want to face but whatever team that I have to face, Big Mike wants to be ready,” he said.
With a light rain falling, pinch-hitter Nick Castellanos hit an RBI single in the seventh to get the Reds to 5-3. But with the bases loaded, Votto struck out and Eugenio Suarez grounded out.
Twins: Two players who left Friday’s game — 3B Josh Donaldson (right calf cramp) and CF Byron Buxton (hit in the helmet by a pitch) — did not play. Donaldson, who missed 30 games this season with a strain of the same calf, feels better and received treatment. Buxton arrived at the ballpark with a few mild concussion symptoms and will be reassessed daily. “I’m hopeful Buck will be ready to go Tuesday,” Baldelli said.
Cincinnati RHP Sonny Gray (5-3, 3.73 ERA) is scheduled to face Minnesota LHP Rich Hill (2-2, 3.27) in Sunday’s finale.
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