CINCINNATI – As the Twins move closer to clinching an American League Central Division title, there are health concerns with the left side of their infield.
After Carlos Correa exited Monday night's game because he aggravated an injury in his left foot, Royce Lewis left Tuesday night's game with left hamstring tightness after he fouled off a pitch in the eighth inning. Lewis immediately grimaced and limped as he took a lap around home plate.
Lewis, who has 36 hits and 37 RBI in his last 32 games, initially tried to wave off acting manager Jayce Tingler and trainer Masa Abe. After Lewis mentioned it was his hamstring, Tingler told Lewis he was coming out of the game, which overshadowed the Twins' 7-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.
The Twins trimmed their magic number to earn a division title to three, and they could clinch as soon as Thursday after the Cleveland Guardians lost 7-6 to the Kansas City Royals.
"You're hoping for the best, but I think with these hamstrings and soft tissue, you don't really know," Tingler said. "You don't really know until the next couple of days and see how he responds. I don't want to speculate or anything like that."
Lewis showed a bit of a limp when he tried to beat out an inning-ending double play in the sixth inning. He immediately walked to his position at third base afterward.
"Two at-bats before [Lewis exited], he had the infield hit, so he was getting down the line," Tingler said. "Didn't really think much of it on the double-play ball. He let up a little bit, but he's been battling a bruised heel and things like that. We didn't think much of it, and he didn't say anything until that foul ball down the right-field line."
Before Lewis' injury, it was the Willi Castro show. Kenta Maeda gave up one hit and one walk across five scoreless innings, and he wasn't even the guy who did the best job at preventing runs.
Castro saved two runs with a sliding catch to end the fourth inning and robbed a two-run home run in the seventh inning. If changing a game defensively wasn't enough, Castro bashed a two-run homer of his own.
"It was really special," Castro said.
Maeda (6-7) didn't allow a hit until Spencer Steer pulled a double down the left-field line. Maeda walked the next batter and then saw both runners advance into scoring position through a double steal.
With the tying run at second base in a two-run game, the Reds' Tyler Stephenson lofted a fly ball to shallow center field. Castro raced forward and saved two runs with his sliding catch. Maeda raised both of his arms in the air when he saw Castro secure the grab.
"It was exceptional," Maeda said through an interpreter. "I want to give him as many hugs as possible."
Emilio Pagán had the same reaction as Maeda in the seventh inning when Castro leaped at the center-field wall to take away a homer from Stephenson with a six-run lead. Castro was looking at his defensive positioning card when Stephenson hit the ball, and he made the catch, incredibly, while holding the card in his right hand.
"That's one of the better plays of robbing a homer I've seen live," Tingler said. "We had the lead, but you could feel they were climbing back."
In a full-blown bullpen game that featured five Reds pitchers in the first four innings, the Twins totaled 11 hits and eight walks. In the fourth inning, Ryan Jeffers lined a changeup from lefthander Alex Young to left field. The ball left Jeffers' bat so quickly, a 111.5-mph exit velocity, and on such a direct line that Jeffers didn't realize the ball flew over the wall as he sprinted around first base.
It was, indeed, a homer, and that's a good omen for the Twins. They have a 10-0 record in games in which Jeffers homers.
The Twins dinked and dunked their way to a couple of runs in the sixth inning before Castro drilled a 90-mph fastball over the right-field wall for a two-run homer in the seventh.