ST. LOUIS (AP) — Michael A. Taylor and Ryan Jeffers each hit a two-run homer, and the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins beat the St. Louis Cardinals 5-3 on Thursday night.
The Twins took two of three from the Cardinals and increased their division lead to 2 1/2 games over idle Cleveland. Minnesota has won just twice in its last eight games.
“It’s a great way to end the road trip,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Grabbing some early runs and great starting pitching, that’s a winning combination. That’s exactly what we got today.”
Sonny Gray (5-4) picked up the win in his first start with the Twins, giving up two runs and five hits in seven innings. In getting his first win since April 30, Gray snapped a four-game losing streak over a span of 15 starts.
“I was aware of it,” Gray said of his losing streak. “I feels nice to get your name next to a ‘W.’ No wins came in a while. Maybe I’ll go on a run and win every start. More importantly, it feels nice to win a series on a getaway day and go back home. It feel better that way and hopefully it will jumpstart us and get us a back on a roll.”
Jhoan Duran gave up a leadoff single in the ninth to Alex Burleson, his third hit in a 3-for-4 night. Burleson scored on a ground out. After a two-out infield single, Duran struck out Taylor Motter to pick up his 19th save.
Matthew Liberatore (1-4) pitched 5 2/3 innings before chased with the bases loaded in the sixth. Drew Verhagen issued a walk to Taylor for a run before getting a strikeout to end the threat. Liberatore allowed five earned runs and six hits with two walks.
“Overall I would say it was a positive outing,” St. Louis manager Oliver Marmol said. “He got beat on two homers. At the end of the day, I thought he pitched well.”
Minnesota stung Liberatore with the pair of two-run home runs in the second.
“Really it was two pitches in the inning,” Liberatore said. “One I wish I could have back (Taylor) and the other I tip my cap to the guy (Jeffers) swinging at it. I settled down after that and got into the sixth inning.”
Jeffers hit a curveball for a homer to center field to score Edouard Julien.
“I saw it well,” Jeffers said about the pitch. “I struggled with the curveball and I thought they might try and throw some and I got a good one.”
Willie Castro followed with a double off Liberatore’s foot as the ball caromed into short left field. After stealing third, he walked home when Taylor hit a 3-0 fastball into Big Mac Land in the third deck in left field for a 4-0 lead.
“I was looking for my pitch,” Taylor said. “I was trying to be real selective. I do like hitting 3-0 when I have to opportunity to swing.”
St. Louis got a run back in the second when Dylan Carlson sliced a double to left, scoring Tommy Edman. The hit snapped an 0-for-11 streak for Carlson.
Alec Burleson hit a one-out home run into the right-field bullpen, cutting the Twins lead to 5-2. Burleson hit a three-run homer in Wednesday’s loss.
“It’s a lot easier to give up that solo home run when you have a four-run lead,” Gray said.
Twins: LHP Dallas Keuchel has had his contract from Triple-A St. Paul picked up. Keuchel, 35, has gone 1-0 with a 1.13 ERA in six starts for the Saints this season. He was named International League Pitcher of the Month for July. He has played in parts of 11 major league seasons with Houston, Atlanta, Chicago White Sox, Arizona and Texas.
Twins: RHP Joe Ryan (left groin strain) was placed on the 15-day Injured List. Ryan, 27, took the loss Wednesday to fall to 9-8. This move makes room for Keuchel on the 26-man roster. … Transferred RHP José De León to the 60-day IL and that makes room for Keuchel on the 40-man roster. De León underwent Tommy John surgery on July 19. … DH Byron Buxton (right hamstring tightness) remained out of the lineup Thursday. He was a late scratch Wednesday.
Cardinals: 2B Nolan Gorman (right foot) was a late scratch when he experienced discomfort in his pregame work. He fouled a ball off his foot in Wednesday’s game. He earlier missed games Sunday and with back soreness. … RHP Ryan Helsley (right forearm strain) threw a bullpen session Wednesday and did well. He may begin a minor-league rehab assignment this weekend.
Twins: RHP Bailey Ober (6-5, 3.19) will face Arizona RHP Merrill Kelly (9-5, 3.23).
Cardinals: RHP Adam Wainwright (3-5, 7.18) faces Colorado RHP Chris Flexen (0-5, 8.08).