Rookie Connor Phillips pitched three-hit ball over seven innings for his first major league win, Will Benson drove in three runs and the Cincinnati Reds beat the Minnesota Twins 7-3 on Monday night in a game with postseason implications for both teams.
Cincinnati (79-73) won for the fifth time in seven games and trails Chicago (78-72) by .0003 for the NL's final wild-card berth, both a half-game behind Arizona (79-72). Miami (78-73) dropped a half-game behind the Reds with a 2-1 loss to the New York Mets,
"It was a great start for our team," Reds manager David Bell said. "We talked about how important these games are. That is a good-hitting team over there. It was an important game. To go deep in the game, it gave our bullpen a little break. In so many ways, it was a huge start."
Minnesota (79-72), nearing its third division title in five years, maintained a seven-game lead over second-place Cleveland in the AL Central with 11 games left.
Spencer Steer had three hits and Joey Votto capped a three-run seventh with a two-run single off Dallas Keuchel.
Phillips (1-0), a 22-year-old right-hander who made his major league debut, hadn't gotten past five innings in either of his first two big league starts. He gave up solo homers by Royce Lewis in the fourth and Alex Kirilloff in the seventh.
"Everything tonight kind of clicked," he said. "I was able to get ahead early. Whenever I do that, the outcomes are usually pretty good."
Phillips matched his season high with seven strikeouts and walked one. He threw first-pitch strikes to 18 of 26 batters.
"We couldn't get much going against Phillips," said Twins bench coach Jayce Tingler, filling in as interim manager while Rocco Baldelli is on paternity leave. "Give him some credit."
Derek Law and Alex Young finished a five-hitter.
Joe Ryan (10-10) fell to 1-4 over his last seven starts, giving up four runs, five hits and three walks in five innings.
"You've got to make good pitches at good times, and I didn't do that tonight," Ryan said. "It's frustrating. If I put the ball in better spots, it's a totally different outing."
Noelvi Marte's RBI single and Benson's sacrifice fly built a 2-0 lead in the second. Michael A. Taylor, just off the injured list after missing 14 games with a right hamstring strain, jumped and gloved Benson's drive at the top of the center field wall.
Benson boosted the lead to 4-1 in the fourth with his 11th homer, a 404-foot, two-run drive to right-center.
"I've seen him do that before," Benson said of Taylor's leaping grab. "On the second one, I was screaming, 'You can't rob that one.'"
Steer singled in a run in the seventh.
A leadoff walk in the second set up a two-run Reds' inning and Ryan walked Noelvi Marte with two outs before Benson's homer.
"I thought, mostly, his stuff was fine," Tingler said. "It was good, but we couldn't cover up the walks."
Minnesota INF Kyle Farmer was honored before the game as Cincinnati's 2022 most valuable player and with an award for his cooperation with the media.
NEXT GEN TWINS
Baldelli and wife Allie welcomed twin boys on Sunday, the day he left the team to go home for the births.
Twins: INF Carlos Correa left after one inning with reaggravation of plantar fasciitis in his left leg. … OF Jordan Luplow was designated for assignment to make room on the roster for Taylor.
Reds: OF Sturt Fairchild and LHP Alex Young were returned from rehab assignments and activated from the COVID-19 injured list. … OF Harrison Bader (right groin strain) was placed on the 10-day IL. … OF Hunter Renfroe was designated for assignment. … RHP Vladimir Gutierrez is scheduled to have an operation Wednesday to remove bone chips in his already surgically repaired right elbow.
Twins RHP Kenta Maeda (5-7, 4.50, 104 strikeouts) and Reds RHP Fernando Cruz (1-1, 4.05) are scheduled to start Tuesday night.
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