MINNEAPOLIS – From three soaring home runs to an exuberant race out of the dugout in celebration of their postseason berth, the Cincinnati Reds made plenty of noise in Minnesota's empty ballpark.
They're playing like they won't leave quietly, either.
Mike Moustakas homered twice, Freddy Galvis hit a solo shot and the Reds clinched their first playoff spot since 2013, beating the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins 7-2 on Friday night.
“We’re going to be as much of a threat as anyone,” said slugger Joey Votto, who has spent his entire 14-year career with the Reds and is the only player remaining from that 2013 team. This will be his fourth trip to the postseason.
“I like this team much more than I liked those teams, and I really liked those teams," Votto said.
The Reds (30-28), who can finish as high as the fifth seed in the eight-team NL field, raised their record to two games above .500 for the first time since May 13, 2017, after Wade Miley, the fifth reliever, wrapped up a scoreless ninth.
Sporting MLB-issued red shirts commemorating their spot in the playoffs, Cincinnati players roared after the final out and streamed onto the diamond for hugs, high fives and a full-team picture.
The Twins (35-23) failed to secure home-field advantage for the wild-card series, when Cleveland rallied to beat Pittsburgh and forge a second-place tie with Chicago in the division race. Minnesota leads the White Sox and Indians by one game, with two to play.
The Reds took a one-and-done loss in the NL wild-card game in 2013, the last year they finished with a winning record, going 90-72 in Dusty Baker’s final season as manager. Three skippers later, David Bell has guided them back for more. The Reds were 15-21 on Sept. 1.
“It's important to stop and recognize the accomplishment and all the work that’s been put in and celebrated it a little bit because you never know when you get opportunities like this,” Bell said.
Michael Lorenzen (2-2) pitched 3 1/3 innings for the victory, stranding runners on second and third in the third. Raisel Iglesias did the same in the eighth, and the Twins left 11 men on base.
“We feel like we’ve built the momentum at the right time,” Lorenzen said.
Power hitting has been their ticket to this tournament, after giving both Nick Castellanos and Moustakas a four-year, $64 million contract, a franchise record. Eugenio Suárez leads the team with 15 homers. Until an RBI single by Castellanos in the fifth, the Reds had a streak of 19 straight runs scored via the long ball, including their entire series against the Brewers: 14 runs on seven homers.
After Philadelphia lost to Tampa Bay and Milwaukee split a doubleheader with St. Louis, the Reds did their part by holding on for their 10th win in the last 12 games.
“The out-of-town scoreboard was right in my view," Bell said. "I couldn’t really stop watching it, actually, between pitches.”
The Twins, who are 23-6 at Target Field, the best home record in baseball, can still settle anywhere from the second seed to the seventh seed for the AL playoffs next week.
The Twins would lose a tiebreaker to the White Sox, based on an inferior intradivision record, but they would win both a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Indians and a three-way tiebreaker with the other two competitors.
Third baseman Josh Donaldson departed after one inning due to a cramp in the calf muscle that kept him out for 30 games earlier this season. Then center fielder Byron Buxton was hit in the head in the eighth by a fastball from Lucas Sims, knocking him to the dirt and forcing him out.
“We’re still playing and hopeful to play to win the division as well. The health of our players is going to come first and foremost,” manager Rocco Baldelli said.
After pitching much better down the stretch of this abbreviated 60-game schedule than in the first half, this wasn't the ideal postseason tuneup for Jose Berríos (5-4). The two-time All-Star finished five innings, with four runs allowed in his first two-homer start of the season.
“My fastball is there. I feel strong. My breaking ball is in good shape. Everything feels good for next week,” Berríos said.
Bell was grateful for a rare opportunity this weekend to catch up in person with his brother, Mike Bell, who's the bench coach for the Twins.
Their father, Buddy Bell, was a five-time All-Star third baseman and manager of three different major league teams who's now working in the front office for the Reds, the team he played four late-career seasons for. Their grandfather, Gus Bell, was a four-time All-Star outfielder for the Reds. So there's no secret where the loyalties lie for their younger sister Traci, who has Down Syndrome.
“She keeps telling my mom that she does love me, too. She just doesn’t want me to win the next few days," Mike Bell said.
Reds: Nine-year veteran RHP Nate Jones, who had a 6.27 ERA in 21 relief appearances in his first season with the Reds, was released before the game. He was designated for assignment this week.
Twins: RHP Homer Bailey, who spent 12 of his 14 major league seasons with the Reds, was designated for assignment prior to the game. He made only two starts for the Twins, missing nearly two months with biceps tendinitis. RHP Edwar Colina was added to the roster and made his major league debut with a three-run ninth, recording only one out.
Reds: RHP Luis Castillo (4-5, 2.86 ERA) will pitch on Saturday night, seeking his fifth straight win. The 2019 All-Star is 4-0 with a 1.26 ERA and 33 strikeouts over four September starts.
Twins: RHP Michael Pineda (2-0, 3.18 ERA) pitches the middle game of the series. The Twins have won all four of his turns since his reinstatement from a 60-game suspension.
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