MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Michael A. Taylor homered to lead off the seventh inning, the third solo shot of the game for the Minnesota Twins in a 3-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night.
Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler went deep against Diamondbacks starter Merrill Kelly, who otherwise cruised through six innings with nine strikeouts against the club that leads the major leagues in whiffs.
Taylor greeted Scott McGough (1-7) with an opposite-field drive off a 1-2 fastball into the flower boxes above the limestone facade beyond right field that put the Twins in front.
Jhoan Duran recorded his 20th save in 24 tries for the Twins, the flame-throwing closer’s latest shaky finish. Duran walked Jake McCarthy with one out and gave up a single to Jose Herrera, before getting a big break when Geraldo Perdomo popped up his first-pitch bunt attempt for an easy out in front of the mound. Ketel Marte struck out looking to end it on a 99 mph fastball on the outside edge.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. homered in the second inning for the Diamondbacks and scored the go-ahead run in the fourth when he was hit by a 90 mph fastball from Twins starter Bailey Ober. Herrera’s two-out bloop single into left field was just out of shortstop Carlos Correa’s running reach to drive in Gurriel.
The next batter Perdomo hit a similarly placed ball that left fielder Willi Castro snagged with a tumbling shoestring catch.
The Diamondbacks (57-54), who led the NL West by three games on July 1, lost for the 20th time in 27 games. They’re in third place, having entered the evening 6 1/2 games behind division-leading Los Angeles.
Ober was pulled after five innings and 104 pitches. Dylan Floro, Caleb Thielbar (1-1), Emilio Pagán and Duran finished with four scoreless innings for the Twins (57-54), who kept their 2 1/2-game edge on Cleveland in the AL Central.
Kelly allowed three or fewer runs for the 10th time in his last 11 starts. He went more than a month between turns because of a blood clot in his right calf muscle.
ALL OR NOTHING
Polanco, who missed 41 games with a strained left hamstring, hit his first homer since June 3. The Twins struck out looking with the bases loaded to end the second and seventh innings.
The Twins welcomed new pitcher Dallas Keuchel, who was promoted from Triple-A this week and slotted into the rotation on Sunday for the injured Joe Ryan. The 35-year-old Keuchel, who won the 2015 AL Cy Young Award with Houston, struggled badly while pitching for three major league teams last season. He signed a minor league contract with the club last month.
“I just kind of stayed persistent with wanting to be with the Twins, and it just worked out the way it worked out,” Keuchel said.
Diamondbacks: 3B/DH Evan Longoria was sent back to Arizona for further treatment and examination of his strained lower back. He’s been out for the last 10 days, still experiencing stiffness and pain. “It hasn’t been responding as favorable as we wanted. He had a couple good days and then a setback,” manager Torey Lovullo said.
Twins: DH Byron Buxton went on the 10-day injured list with a strained right hamstring, expected to miss at least two weeks.
Diamondbacks: RHP Ryne Nelson (6-5, 4.84 ERA) pitches on Saturday night. Nelson has allowed one or two runs in five of his last seven starts.
Twins: RHP Kenta Maeda (2-6, 4.53 ERA) takes the mound for the middle game of the series. The Twins have won five of his seven starts since coming off the injured list, and he has a 2.63 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings over that span.