Twins’ comeback falls short as Braves hold on 11-7
By Dave Campbell
AP Sports Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Ozzie Albies homered twice in his second straight four-hit game, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Freddie Freeman both went deep, and the Atlanta Braves again powered their way past the Minnesota Twins 11-7 on Wednesday.
Max Fried (13-4) used a season-high 10 strikeouts to win his fourth consecutive start, pitching into the sixth inning before finding trouble. The terrific trio at the top of the lineup provided more than sufficient support, with Acuña, Albies and Freeman combining for eight hits and five RBIs in 15 at-bats. They were 23 for 45 with seven home runs and 15 RBIs in this three-game series.
Albies and Freeman each connected on the first pitch they faced from Martín Pérez in the first inning, just like Acuña and Freeman did in the first and third innings on Tuesday night against Twins All-Star Jose Berrios. Charlie Culberson went 4 for 5 with two RBIs, Johan Camargo drove in three runs, and the Braves reached double-digit runs for the second straight day. This was the fifth time in three weeks the Twins allowed 10-plus runs.
The total would’ve been higher had it not been for the triple play turned in the third inning by third baseman Miguel Sanó, second baseman Jonathan Schoop and first baseman C.J. Cron on a sharp grounder hit by Tyler Flowers. That was the second triple play the Twins handed Pérez this summer, this one coming with the bases loaded and three runs already in for the Braves to keep them from building on their 6-0 lead.
Albies and Freeman gave the Braves their 12th set of back-to-back homers this season, a franchise record and the most in the majors in 2019. The top three spots in the lineup have produced 81 home runs this season, the most in the NL.
Fried struck out seven of the first nine batters he faced. He’s 6-0 in his last nine starts on the road, becoming the first Braves left-hander to reach the 13-win mark since Mike Minor in 2013.
Sanó hit a three-run homer in a four-run ninth for the first-place Twins, who at least generated a little momentum late for their critical four-game series against Cleveland this weekend. The Indians won the first game of their doubleheader on Wednesday to trim the lead in the AL Central race to 21⁄2 games entering the evening.
Pérez (8-5) worked six innings to save the bullpen, but this latest dud means he might be headed there himself when Michael Pineda is ready to return from the injured list. Rookie Devin Smeltzer, who is scheduled to start on Friday night in Pineda’s place, pitched six shutout innings in his last turn. Pérez fell to 0-2 with a 6.67 ERA and 11 home runs allowed in his last five starts. He only surrendered seven homers in his first 18 appearances of the season.
The ugly third inning that was salvaged by the triple play featured two walks, a passed ball on catcher Mitch Garver and a dropped throw for an error on Cron. The weekly severe weather siren test fittingly occurred during that inning, perhaps a symbolic warning to the Twins to pick up their play before the Indians arrive.
Braves: Acuña hit himself on the left shin with a foul ball in the sixth inning. After an extended evaluation, he stayed in the game and struck out.
Twins: RHP Kohl Stewart, who relieved Pérez, rejoined the team before the game from Triple-A Rochester. Stewart was the third pitcher in the last week to ride the fresh arm express, with RHP Cody Stashak taking the return trip after a 44-pitch outing the previous night.
Braves: LHP Dallas Kuechel (3-4, 3.86 ERA) will pitch on Thursday night to begin a four-game series at Miami, their last of three visits this season. RHP Elieser Hernández (1-4, 5.66) will start for the Marlins.
Twins: RHP Kyle Gibson (11-4, 4.02) will take the mound on Thursday night to start the first of three remaining series against the Indians, who will turn to RHP Mike Clevinger (6-2, 3.07) for the opener.