MINNEAPOLIS -- — Emilio Pagán pitched two scoreless innings after Tyler Mahle departed with right shoulder fatigue, and the Minnesota Twins beat the Kansas City Royals 4-0 on Wednesday for a three-game sweep.
Jose Miranda homered for Minnesota, which is fighting with Cleveland and the Chicago White Sox for control of the crowded AL Central. Miranda finished with two hits and two RBI, and Nick Gordon had a run-scoring double.
After Mahle left in the third, Pagán (4-6), Griffin Jax, Jhoan Duran, Michael Fulmer and Trevor Megill finished Minnesota’s second straight shutout. A diving catch by center fielder Gilberto Celestino saved a run in the seventh.
“Yeah, we’ve got a super-talented group, and to be able to pick up the team like that is huge, especially when it caps off a sweep. So, that was a lot of fun,” Pagán said.
Making his third start since he was acquired from Cincinnati at the trade deadline, Mahle faced eight batters before manager Rocco Baldelli and a team trainer visited the mound in the third inning.
Mahle pitched 2 1/3 innings of hitless ball, walking one. He threw 29 of his 42 pitches for strikes, but his velocity was diminished.
Mahle is going to get an MRI and the team is expected to provide an update later Wednesday or Thursday.
On July 6, the Reds placed Mahle on the 15-day injured list with a strained right shoulder. An MRI ruled out any serious issues.
“I think we’re thinking it’s more along the lines of what guys do deal with over the course of the season," Baldelli said. "Guys do deal with things like this, maybe not quite to this extent, but guys do pitch through a lot of different soreness and tight here and tight there.”
Minnesota outscored Kansas City 17-2 in the series, bouncing back nicely from an ugly 1-4 road trip.
“That’s baseball,” Twins catcher Gary Sánchez said. “We never put our heads down. We came home. We had a great series against Kansas City, and just moving forward."
The Royals led 2-0 in the first inning Monday, but have gone scoreless in 26 frames since.
Salvador Perez and Vinnie Pasquantino each had two hits for Kansas City, which has been shut out 15 times this season.
Royals left-hander Daniel Lynch (4-8) allowed four runs — three earned — in six innings.
One strike away from getting out of the first inning, Lynch surrendered a two-run drive by Miranda. Of the 50 runs Lynch has allowed in 19 starts, 18 have come in the first inning. Last season, 43.5% of the runs he allowed occurred in the opening frame.
“I think I just sort of came out a little flat," Lynch said. “I’m not sure, but I kind of came in after that first inning and told myself I need to turn it on and get going a little bit.”
KELLER TO THE ‘PEN
Brad Keller has been moved from the Royals’ rotation to the bullpen. The 6-foot-5 right-hander last worked as a reliever as a rookie in 2018.
Keller, who was scheduled to start Thursday, has six wins, an AL-high 13 losses and a 4.93 ERA in 22 starts. In two of his last three starts, he allowed eight earned runs; in three innings against the Dodgers on Aug. 13, and in 5 2/3 innings Aug. 2 against the White Sox.
“Many of you probably remember when Brad came up and how dominant he could look in the ’pen. So, it’s always been part of the conversation. Hate to go into the offseason wondering without actually taking a look,” manager Mike Matheny said.
Royals: RHP Joel Payamps was reinstated from the family medical emergency bereavement list and RHP Wyatt Mills was optioned to Triple-A Omaha.
Twins: 2B Jorge Polanco missed his second straight game after leaving Monday’s game with left knee soreness after sliding into home plate, but Tuesday tests all came back OK.
Royals: Open a four-game series Thursday at Tampa Bay.
Twins: Begin a four-game home series Friday against Texas.