Braves beat Twins 2-0 in majors-worst matchup
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) A.J. Pierzynski has long been the target of boos in Minnesota, where he made his major league debut nearly 18 years ago.
Hardly noticed this time during a matchup of the majors' worst teams, Atlanta's ageless catcher turned in another solid performance.
Lucas Harrell pitched six innings, Adonis Garcia homered and the Braves beat the Twins 2-0 on Tuesday night, an untimely meeting nearly 25 years after the Twins beat the Braves in a World Series often mentioned among the most dramatic in history.
Pierzynski doubled and scored against the team that drafted him in the third round in 1994. Behind the plate, he helped guide Harrell (2-2) to his first scoreless start in the majors since June 9, 2013, with Houston.
The 39-year-old Pierzynski also threw out the fleet-footed Byron Buxton trying to steal third base in the third inning, the first time Buxton was caught in eight attempts this season.
''I've always liked it here. I said after the game it was kind of weird that they didn't boo me,'' said Pierzynski, who was a regular for three seasons for the Twins until being traded to San Francisco in 2003. ''Then again, I think no one in the stands remembered that I played here, it was so long ago. There were actually some claps, which was a little bit different.''
Harrell, making his fifth start this month but only his eighth in the majors since the end of the 2013 season, gave up four hits and walked three. The right-hander lowered his ERA to 3.38.
''I just went along with A.J.'s plan and made pitches, and that's what it was all about tonight,'' Harrell said.
The 1991 anniversary celebration was launched by Gene Larkin, who had the winning hit in the 10th inning of Game 7, throwing the ceremonial first pitch. Twins starter Ervin Santana, who logged his second complete game in his last four turns, was prepared to emulate Jack Morris, who pitched 10 innings in the famous Game 7.
Sure, there was a little less on the line, but Santana (3-9) needed only 97 pitches for nine innings. Allowing seven hits, Santana struck out five without a walk. He lobbied manager Paul Molitor for a return if the Twins were able to tie the game in the ninth.
''He was like, `Yeah, you got it,''' Santana said.
But Jim Johnson pitched a perfect ninth for his third save in six attempts, completing a five-hitter that stopped the Braves' five-game losing streak. The Twins went 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven runners overall.
''We just squandered opportunities early and didn't muster late,'' Molitor said.
Interim general manager Rob Antony said he's not calling other teams to try to trade Santana, who is making $13.5 million this year and is signed through 2018. He went 14-10 for the Braves in 2014.
''If you trade him, you go into the offseason saying, `We really need another veteran. We need another guy we feel good about and are confident he's going to be able to give us a good outing every five days,''' Antony said before the game. ''I'm not sure that guy's going to be out there, and if he is there's going to be a lot of competition to get him.''
TRADE TALK, PART TWO
Harrell could find himself on the move, too, with the Braves also playing out a lost season.
''I love Atlanta and the group of guys we have in here,'' he said. ''I think this team can build a winner again, and I'd love to be here for that.''
The 31-year-old Harrell was signed as a minor league free agent May 21 after he began the season in Detroit's organization.
Braves: RHP Julio Teheran had his next turn in the rotation pushed back two days to Saturday as a precaution. Teheran left his previous start with tightness in his back, but he threw on the side Tuesday without trouble.
Twins: 3B Trevor Plouffe, progressing through baseball-like activities in his recovery from a broken rib, will take live batting practice by the weekend and could begin a rehab assignment next week. He has been on the DL since July 4.
The Braves will send RHP Mike Foltynewicz (3-4, 3.79 ERA) to the mound Wednesday in trying to sweep the two-game set. RHP Tyler Duffey (5-7, 5.71 ERA) will pitch for the Twins.