An around-the-horn triple play saved Martin Perez from an early exit on Wednesday. Whether it saved his spot in the Twins’ rotation remains to be seen.
Perez allowed hits to four of the first six batters he faced, two of them long home runs, and surrendered seven runs over six rocky innings. The left-hander’s winless drought extended past a month as Atlanta pounded its way to an 11-7 victory at Target Field.
The NL East-leading Braves took two of three games in Minneapolis, scoring 26 runs in the series, and left the Twins backpedaling into an important weekend showdown with their closest pursuers, the Cleveland Indians.
Atlanta lefthander Max Fried struck out 10 batters and retired the first nine Twins he faced before tiring in the sixth inning in 82-degree sunshine. Minnesota mounted a comeback, piling up five hits in the innings, but for the second day in a row, the Twins’ offense arrived far too late. Fried owned a 7-0 lead as he took the mound in the sixth, not quite as large as Atlanta’s 11-0 mid-game advantage on Tuesday. And though Miguel Sano, C.J. Cron and Jake Cave all drove home runs, the Braves’ bullpen kept the Twins from threatening any major rally until it was too late.
Sano launched his 20th homer of the season with two outs in the four-run ninth inning, a three-run shot that was the Twins’ 224th of the season. That’s just one shy of the franchise record set in 1963.
Perez, meanwhile, was aided by a triple play for the second time in four starts. After surrendering solo home runs to Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman in the first inning — Freeman’s fourth home run in five career games at Target Field — and a run-scoring double to Charlie Culberson, Perez got in trouble in the third inning, too, one of the ugliest innings of the Twins’ season.
Albies led off with a single, and Freeman hit a sharp ground ball that shortstop Jorge Polanco knocked down but couldn’t turn into an out. Josh Donaldson walked on four pitches for the third time in the series, loading the bases and sparking a handful of boos from a large but restless matinee crowd of 35,682.
The triple play is the first time since the Twins turned two triple plays in the same game, at Fenway Park on July 17, 1990, that they had recorded two of the plays in the same season.