José Berriós surrendered only two singles over seven innings in his best start in six weeks, Mitch Garver hit the tiebreaking two-run homer in the seventh inning, and the Minnesota Twins beat the Washington Nationals 5-0 on Tuesday night in an interleague matchup of teams on postseason tracks.
Berriós (12-8) struck out four and walked one, the first turn of more than six innings for the two-time All-Star right-hander since July 31. He had an 8.07 ERA over those previous six starts.
Aníbal Sánchez was almost as sharp for the Nationals, until the seventh. Eddie Rosario led off with a double, and Garver followed with his 30th homer in 280 at-bats this season. Sánchez (8-8) finished the inning, ending his evening with four hits and one walk allowed along with five strikeouts.
The American League Central-leading Twins took a five-game lead on Cleveland into the night. The Indians, who have six more losses than the Twins, played at the Los Angeles Angels.
The Nationals entered 9½ games behind the Atlanta Braves in the National League East, but they were in the first wild card spot, 4½ games above the cut, ahead of Milwaukee. The Chicago Cubs have the second spot.
Never have the Twins needed a boost for the rotation like this from Berriós more than on this night, with Kyle Gibson weakened by a digestive track disease and Michael Pineda suspended for 60 games because of a positive test for a banned diuretic.
The 25-year-old pitched just like the ace that he the Twins have developed him to be, and Sergio Romo and Trevor May followed with a scoreless inning apiece to hand the Nationals their seventh shutout this season.
In the eighth, the Twins padded their lead with a two-run double by Jorge Polanco and a sacrifice fly by Ehire Adrianza, and the Nationals took their sixth loss in eight games.
Sanchez, who was in spring training with the Twins in 2018 before they signed Lance Lynn and let him go, is 8-2 with a 3.61 ERA in 18 starts since coming off the injured list for a strained left hamstring. He was 0-6 with a 5.10 ERA before getting hurt.
Pineda, who spoke to reporters for the first time since his suspension was announced on Friday, said before the game he plans to be at the ballpark as much as he’s allowed to support his teammates during the stretch run. Pineda said he took an over-the-counter weight-management medication recommended by a person close to him, not realizing it contained the prohibited substance hydrochlorothiazide. The 6-foot-7, 280-pound Pineda has had elbow and knee trouble over the last few years.
“It’s embarrassing. I feel obviously sad, which is why I’m here today in front of you guys because I let myself down, my family, my teammates, especially where we are in the season,” Pineda said through a team interpreter.
Nationals second baseman Brian Dozier was not in the lineup, but he got his due with a pregame ovation from the crowd following a highlight video of his time with the Twins. Drafted in the eighth round in 2009, Dozier played in 955 games for the Twins until being traded at the deadline last year to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He hit 104 home runs over a three-year span from 2015-17. One of his teammates with the Twins, catcher Kurt Suzuki, is also with the Nationals.
Nationals: Suzuki was out for the second straight game with right elbow soreness. He’s doing strengthening exercises and taking anti-inflammatory medication and should be able to pinch hit soon, manager Dave Martinez said.
Twins: RF Max Kepler had testing done on his left shoulder that showed no damage but was on the bench again with 3B Miguel Sano (back), RF Jake Cave (groin) and OF/IF Marwin Gonzalez (oblique).
Nationals: Stephen Strasburg (16-6, 3.50 ERA) starts on Wednesday night, with rain in the forecast.
Twins: Martín Pérez (10-6, 4.75 ERA) takes the mound for the middle game of the series.
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