MINNEAPOLIS — Matt Wallner hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday to give the Minnesota Twins a rain-delayed 5-3 victory and a three-game sweep of the skidding Arizona Diamondbacks.
Christian Walker had put the Diamondbacks ahead 3-2 with a solo home run in the top of the ninth.
Max Kepler led off the bottom half by hitting his third homer in three games. Jorge Polanco walked and Wallner sent a soaring drive off the facing of the right-center scoreboard off new Arizona closer Paul Sewald (3-2), who was acquired from Seattle in a trade Monday.
“With us struggling, and finally getting that chance to try and get off this losing streak and get called upon to do what I’m supposed to do and then fail miserably, it’s disappointing,” Sewald said.
Wallner’s home run was no surprise to Kepler, however.
“He’s legit,” Kepler said of his rookie teammate. “He’s a beast. A big ceiling for him.”
Minnesota handed the Diamondbacks their sixth straight defeat and opened a 4 1/2-game lead in the AL Central over Cleveland.
“We pitched well, we pitched well situationally, we made plays,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We just kept doing everything we could to just stay right there in the ballgame.”
Zac Gallen pitched seven strong innings for Arizona, allowing two runs and three hits while striking out eight.
Dallas Keuchel, the 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner, made his Twins debut and first appearance in the majors since Sept. 2, 2022, for Texas. He signed a minor league deal with the Twins on June 22 and went 1-0 with a 1.13 ERA in six starts at Triple-A St. Paul.
Against the Diamondbacks — one of three teams he pitched for last year — Keuchel gave up one run in five innings while working around eight hits. He walked two and did not strike out a batter.
“I just kind of wanted to start off on the right foot,” said Keuchel, who joined the Twins when Joe Ryan went on the IL with a groin injury. “I had some nerves that I didn’t really expect. So getting that first out really, really helped.”
Caleb Thielbar (2-1) allowed Walker’s homer in the ninth but got the win.
The start of the game was delayed 2 hours, 12 minutes, due to inclement weather.
Carlos Correa had a two-run single that put the Twins in front 2-1 in the sixth.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. tied it with an RBI double in the seventh.
The Diamondbacks set a franchise record with eight stolen bases. They pulled off three double steals of second and third, and Jake McCarthy and Jace Peterson each stole second in the eighth. Arizona entered third in the majors with 111 steals. However, none of the eight stolen bases led to runs as the offense stranded 12 runners.
“We talked about creating a little bit of energy on the bases. We’ve been talking about that for a while and it showed up today,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “You’re advancing 90 feet and in several cases you’re advancing two players 90 feet. We just couldn’t capitalize. We put ourselves in a really good position. I can’t explain it.”
Diamondbacks 2B Ketel Marte exited in the fifth with left quad tightness. He’s day-to-day.
“He probably could have continued playing, but I’ve been asking a lot of him as of late,” Lovullo said. “Just wanted to get him off his feet.”
Diamondbacks: RHP Brandon Pfaadt (0-5, 7.11 ERA) takes the mound Tuesday night when Arizona hosts the Dodgers. He’s coming off the best start of his young career, when he held the Giants to one run over seven innings Thursday.
Twins: RHP Pablo López (6-6, 4.01) faces the Tigers in Detroit on Monday night. López struck out 10 in his only start against Detroit this year.
AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB