MINNEAPOLIS -- A win by the Washington Nationals over the Minnesota Twins made the American League Central Division race a lot more interesting.
Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto each homered and drove in three runs as the Nationals beat Minnesota 12-6 Thursday night, cutting the Twins divisional lead to 3 ½ games ahead of a critical series in Cleveland.
Adam Eaton and Yan Gomes also homered and Asdrúbal Cabrera added two run-scoring hits for the Nationals, who maintained their 3 ½-game lead for the top NL wild-card spot over the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers.
Minnesota's divisional lead fell for the second straight game as the Twins head to Cleveland for three-game series beginning Friday, the final games between the teams this season. Cleveland was idle Thursday. The Twins lost three games off their lead in the last five days.
And the Twins lost yet another player to injury, utility infielder Ehire Adrianza, who strained his right oblique swinging at a pitch in the second with two on. Adrianza was hurting so badly that manager Rocco Baldelli told him to bunt the runners along, which he did.
The Twins were already without Miguel Sano (sore back), Max Kepler (sore left shoulder), Marwin Gonzalez (oblique strain), Jake Cave (left groin strain) and reliever Sam Dyson (sore right biceps). Baldelli said Adrianza will not make the trip to Cleveland and may be out awhile.
"It's kind of crazy, because I haven't seen a situation like this in a long time, and we've had periods of time this year when we seem to be short on players," said Baldelli. "You usually don't see it in September because of the expanded rosters and the ability to carry as many players as you can. But that's what we're dealing with."
Lefthander Patrick Corbin (12-7) pitched effectively for six innings at Target Field, limiting baseball's top home run-hitting team to three runs on nine hits. Twins DH Nelson Cruz hit Minnesota's one homer off Corbin in the third, his 36th, an estimated 454-foot blast into the restaurant above the batter's eye in center field.
"You just try to locate early, get ahead of them, try to get them to swing at your pitch," Corbin said. "They're dangerous. I think they still lead the league in homers, or close to it. You can't make mistakes to these guys. I thought today I was able to make some good pitches. They had some ground balls that got through, but for the most part our offense did a great job and kept putting up runs throughout the game."
Twins starter Kyle Gibson (13-7), back after missing nine games with ulcerative colitis, struggled through 4 2/3 innings, giving up six runs, five earned, on eight hits while walking four. Four of the runs charged to him scored with two out, the last on a passed ball after he left the game.
"I had a chance to get out of a lot of those innings, but just didn't do a good enough job to get out," Gibson said.
The Nationals added four runs in the sixth off reliever Kohl Stewart to seemingly put the game out of reach. The big blows were Rendon's two-run double and Soto's two-run, opposite-field homer to left. It was Soto's 34th homer; Rendon hit his 33rd in the first. But the Twins cut the lead to 10-6 in the eighth and loaded the bases with one out before former Twin Fernando Rodney struck out Cruz and pinch-hitter Jorge Polanco.
"It got a little close there," Corbin said. "He comes in and gets those two big strikeouts. He's 40-something. He still throws hard. He's still out there doing it, comes in in a big spot, makes pitches. I feel like he's going to be doing this forever."
Now it's on to Cleveland for the hobbled Twins, who have lost three of four.
"When we're against the wall, we push back," Cruz said. "Tomorrow will be a good example. We all believe each other, and this is what we're here for. Anyone you ask wants to be in this situation."
The game began after a 50-minute rain delay.
TAKE A SEAT
Twins: All-Star shortstop Jorge Polanco did not start because of an emergency dental procedure earlier in the day, but pinch-hit in the 8th. Polanco has played 139 games, more than any other Twin, lately with a sore middle finger on his right hand. "Many times we tried to get him a day (off), and we had to go to him the morning of the game and tell him we needed him to play because other guys were dealing with other things we could not work around," Baldelli said.
Nationals: Kurt Suzuki (right elbow inflammation) won't throw for a few more days, manager Dave Martinez said.
Twins: Miguel Sano (sore back) and Max Kepler (sore left shoulder) took swings in the indoor batting cage, but did not play. Marwin Gonzalez (oblique strain), Sam Dyson (sore right biceps) and Jake Cave (left groin strain) remain out. "I'm not sure when we're going to have the entire group out there playing at the same time," Baldelli said. "Hopefully it's a matter of days."
Nationals: Max Scherzer (10-5, 2.56 ERA) opens a three-game series with the Braves at Nationals Park, facing Mike Soroka (11-4, 2.67) for the second consecutive start. Scherzer's ERA is more than one run higher with Yan Gomes catching (3.44) than the injured and unavailable Kurt Suzuki (2.08).
Twins: Jake Odorizzi (14-6, 3.60) opposes Cleveland in the first of three critical games with the team chasing the Twins for the AL Central lead. Odorizzi pitched effectively to no decision against the Indians in his last start, allowing two runs in 5 1/3 innings in a 5-3 Twins victory at Target Field.
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