The Twins were hoping to use this season-finale weekend with the Reds to cement a favorable playoff seeding, certainly, but also to get as healthy as possible for the postseason ahead.
They failed at both goals Friday.
Mike Moustakas homered twice and Cincinnati clinched its first National League playoff spot since 2013 with a 7-2 victory at Target Field, ending the Twins’ four-game winning streak and keeping their hold on the AL Central lead precarious with two games remaining in the season.
Worst of all, Josh Donaldson and Byron Buxton suffered injuries that forced them from the game. Donaldson experienced cramping in his right calf, the same leg that kept him sidelined throughout August, while popping out in the first inning. And Buxton, who has battled concussions a couple of times in his career, took a fastball from Lucas Sims off the side of his helmet in the eighth inning, a scary incident that left him lying in the dirt for several seconds.
The initial diagnosis on Buxton was head contusion; concussion symptoms were not evident, but it had not been ruled out.
Both players will be evaluated again Saturday, and manager Rocco Baldelli said he was staying hopeful that neither injury would cost him a key player when making out the Game 1 lineup next Tuesday.
“I don’t know that anything that happened today is going to be something that keeps our guys off the field for very long,” said Baldelli, who didn’t get to do much celebrating on his 39th birthday. “[We’ll] stay on the careful side for the rest of the regular season.”
Meanwhile, the AL Central race got even tighter. Cleveland engineered its third walk-off victory in four days, and its sixth straight victory overall, to pull within one game of the first-place Twins. The White Sox lost to the Cubs, leaving them also one game back with two to play. The Twins hold the tiebreaker against Cleveland and in a three-way tie, but not in a two-way knot with Chicago.
That sets up a dramatic weekend, one that the Twins hope will include a little more clutch hitting. The Twins’ bats, which had produced 16 home runs in their past seven games, went suddenly quiet Friday, their first Target Field game without a home run since Sept. 4.
Without the long ball, the Twins couldn’t sustain a rally, going 2-for-13 with runners on scoring position.
“We got some good at-bats to get guys [on base], and we left them out there,” Baldelli said. “It seemed like just when we needed that hit to really break through and give us something to get us going, we just weren’t able to do it. I don’t know how many runners we left on base” — it was 11 — “but it was too many.”
Jose Berrios gave up a pair of Cincinnati home runs, to Moustakas and Freddy Galvis, in a five-inning start.