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Twins wear out Royals pitching in 9-0 victory

Sonny Gray throws six scoreless innings as Twins pull within one game of Central-leading Cleveland

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Minnesota Twins
Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Sonny Gray (54) throws to the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, in the first inning at Target Field in Minneapolis.
Bruce Kluckhohn / USA Today Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins are finding their way back to the top of the American League Central.

Sonny Gray pitched six-plus shutout innings, and seven Twins each drove in a run as Minnesota beat the Kansas City Royals, 9-0, in front of an announced crowd of 23,093 at Target Field on Tuesday.

Major league batting leader Luis Arraez went 4 for 5 with an RBI single and scored two runs, boosting his average by three points to .336. Gio Urshela and Nick Gordon each drove in two runs. It was the most runs the Twins had scored since an 11-1 victory at Cleveland on June 27.

The victory, coupled with Cleveland’s 7-5 loss to Detroit, pulled the Twins within one game of the Central-leading Guardians. They started this homestand on Monday trailing by 2½ games.

The Twins and Guardians play eight times in September.

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Gray (7-3) allowed only three hits, didn’t walk a batter and tied a season high with 10 strikeouts in six innings. He faced two batters in the seventh, surrendering singles to Salvador Perez and Vinnie Pasquantino before manager Rocco Baldelli replaced him with left-hander Caleb Thielbar.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Minnesota Twins
Minnesota Twins catcher Sandy Leon (39) lays down an RBI sacrifice bunt against the Kansas City Royals in the first inning Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, at Target Field.
Bruce Kluckhohn / USA Today Sports
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The two Minnesotans — Varland from Maplewood, Wallner from Forest Lake — gave hometown fans plenty to cheer about this season, both in St. Paul and Minneapolis. Both started the year with Double-A Wichita before earning a pair of promotions and debuting in September.
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The Twins led the Central division for 108 days during the season. The last came on Sept. 4, when they pulled back into a tie with the Guardians atop the division. They finished the season in third place with a 78-84 record, 14 games behind Cleveland and three behind Chicago.
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Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine have some heavy lifting ahead of them. The first task is deciding whether to offer Carlos Correa a long-term contract.
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Correa, who played in 136 games in 2022, finished his year hitting .291 with a .834 OPS. His 139 OPS+ (100 is league average) is the second-highest in his career. His 5.4 bWAR (Wins Above Replacement per Baseball Reference) leads the Twins, and he quickly became a leader within the Twins’ clubhouse.
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The infielder joined an exclusive club Wednesday, becoming the fifth Twins player to win an American League batting title, joining Rod Carew (seven times), Joe Mauer (three), Tony Oliva (three) and Kirby Puckett.
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Duran, 24, entered Tuesday with a 4.6 Win Probability Added, a statistic that credits a player for how much his appearance impacted his team’s chance of winning, per Baseball Reference.
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Minnesota hitter goes 1-for-4 and maintains lead on Judge
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The White Sox rallied against Twins reliever Griffin Jax, who fell to 7-4 after yielding one run on two hits in the seventh.
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Arraez entered Monday’s play with a .315 to .311 edge over New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, who would win the first Triple Crown since 2012 if he surpassed the Minnesota Twins’ infielder.
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With three games remaining for the Twins (and four for the Yankees), Twins infielder Luis Arrraez and New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge remain locked in a tight race for the American League batting title.

As he did in Monday’s 4-2 victory over the Royals, Thielbar got the Twins out of a two-on, none-out jam. The first batter he faced, Michael Massey, grounded into a fielder’s choice, forcing Pasquantino, 3-6. He then struck out Michael Taylor and Nick Prato to end the inning and retain Minnesota’s 3-0 lead.

Veteran right-hander Zack Greinke (4-8) allowed three runs, one earned, on nine hits and struck out five over six innings. Catcher Sandy Leon drove in the Twins first run, scoring Urshela with a sacrifice but in the second inning. Arraez then singled home Gilberto Celestino before being thrown out at second.

Celestino hit a hanging breaking ball from Greinke off the ribbon board in left field for the Twins’ third run.

Minnesota scored three two-out runs in the seventh, one on a fielder’s choice grounder by Max Kepler and two on two-out RBI singles by Urshela and Nick Gordon. Joe Miranda, Urshela and Gordon added run-scoring singles in the eighth to make it 9-0.

The AL Central rivals finish their three-game series with a matinee on Wednesday.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Minnesota Twins
Minnesota Twins relief pitcher Cole Sands (77) and catcher Sandy Leon (39) celebrate their win over the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, at Target Field.
Bruce Kluckhohn / USA Today Sports

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