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Mitch Keller wins his 6th straight start and Oneil Cruz homers again as Pirates blank Twins 3-0

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PITTSBURGH (AP) — Mitch Keller pitched six scoreless innings to win his sixth straight start, Oneil Cruz homered for a second consecutive game and the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Minnesota Twins 3-0 on Friday night.

Keller (8-3) scattered seven hits while striking eight and walking two. He also pitched at least five innings for the 44th straight time, the longest active streak in the major leagues.

During his winning streak, Keller has allowed five runs in 39 2/3 innings for a 1.13 ERA. He’s the first Pirates pitcher to win six consecutive starts since Gerrit Cole in 2015.

“Anything being (mentioned) with Gerrit is pretty cool,” Keller said. “He’s someone I look up to, so that’s pretty cool. Good rhythm. I’m trying to keep it going. Probably more crisp now that it’s warming up. I just feel a little bit better each time out.”

Aroldis Chapman, Colin Holderman and David Bednar each pitched one scoreless inning of relief to finish the eight-hitter. Bednar notched his 13th save in 16 opportunities as the Pirates recorded their third shutout of the season and won for the third time in their last four games.

“It’s kind of like handing the ball off, just passing the baton,” Bednar said of the relievers. “It’s been really cool watching those guys work. They’re nasty.”

Cruz hit a 422-foot drive into the stands in right-center field off Joe Ryan (4-5) to lead off the second. It was his team-high ninth of the season and came after he hit a 462-foot shot Thursday night in a loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“Any time a guy hits a ball that high, that far, you definitely step back,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “We know when Oneil’s in the right spot mechanically, he has the ability to really impact the baseball, and we’ve seen that the last two nights.”

Connor Joe homered with two outs in the eighth to extend the Pirates’ lead to 3-0, connecting against Griffin Jax.

Bryan Reynolds doubled to lead off the fourth and scored on Nick Gonzales’ sacrifice fly, the 23rd RBI for the second baseman in 25 games since being recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis. Reynolds had two of the Pirates’ four hits.

Ryan allowed two runs and two hits in seven innings with eight strikeouts and two walks as the Twins lost their fourth straight. They were swept in a three-game series by the New York Yankees.

“He was really efficient. He was really good. He was in control of all his pitches,” Shelton said of Ryan.

Trevor Larnach, Carlos Correa, Jose Miranda and Byron Buxton had two hits each for the Twins, but they were shut out for the fourth time.

The Twins loaded the bases with one out in fifth while trailing 1-0. However, Keller got out of the jam by striking out Royce Lewis and Max Kepler. Lewis’ nine-game hitting streak, which began last season, ended.

Twins assistant hitting coach Derek Shomon was ejected in the top of the fifth by plate umpire Paul Clemons for arguing a called strike on Correa.

TRANSACTIONS

Pirates: CF Michael A. Taylor was reinstated from the paternity list and INF Liover Peguero was optioned to Indianapolis.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Pirates: LHPs Ryan Borucki (left triceps inflammation) and Marco Gonzales (left triceps inflammation), both on the 60-day injured list, are throwing from 110 feet but there is no timetable for their returns.

UP NEXT

Twins rookie RHP Simeon Woods Richardson (2-0, 3.05 ERA) pitches Saturday. RHP Carmen Mlodzinski (0-2, 6.75) will start for the Pirates in what will likely be a bullpen game.

AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb

By JOHN PERROTTO
Associated Press

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