Kenta Maeda Allowed Two Runs in Five Innings: Braves Win 5th Straight with a 3-game Sweep of Twins

AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Kenta Maeda delivers in the second inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Wednesday, June 28, 2023, in Atlanta.

ATLANTA (AP) — Matt Olson homered late and doubled in an early run and the Atlanta Braves won their fifth straight game, beating the Minnesota Twins 3-0 Wednesday for a series sweep.

Atlanta has won 21 of 25 to improve to a National League-leading 53-27. Kolby Allard, Kirby Yates, A.J. Minter, Joe Jiménez and Raisel Iglesias combined on the four-hitter with 14 strikeouts.

“It was a really good job by everybody,” manager Brian Snitker said. “Any time you throw a shutout it’s a team effort.”

Olson’s 26th homer, which leads the NL, came off Jordan Balazovic in the eighth and made it 3-0.

“Just trying to continuously progress as the season goes on,” Olson said. “I feel like I’m working in the right direction.”

The Braves took a 1-0 lead in the first when Ronald Acuña Jr. walked, stole second base, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on Olson’s double. Atlanta leads the majors with 76 first-inning runs.

Atlanta went up 2-0 in the third on Ozzie Albies’ sacrifice fly.

The Twins couldn’t capitalize on their scoring opportunities and finished 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position — and 0 for 23 in the three-game series.

Byron Buxton snapped a 0-for-17 streak with a double in the fourth but after advancing on a flyout he was tagged out at home trying to score on Kyle Farmer’s grounder to third. Donovan Solano struck out against Yates (3-0) with runners on first and second to end the fifth. Christian Vazquez lined into a double play to end the seventh.

The Twins closed their clubhouse after the game, and only manager Rocco Baldelli was made available to speak with reporters.

“Yeah, we’re scrapping just to score a run right now,” Baldelli said. “We’re going to have to win some close ballgames like that, but you can’t win every game clawing for a run, two runs. It feels like we’ve been like that for a long time.

“I’m hoping that getting this out, and the players are in there talking right now in the clubhouse, I’m hoping that me getting this out, them getting it out as a group and feeling this together as a team is what is going to help lead us to where we need to be.”

Allard made a spot start in his season debut, last pitching in the majors on Oct. 2, 2022, with Texas. A first-round amateur draft pick by Atlanta in 2015, Allard was reacquired in November. He began the game with a career 9-23 record and a 6.07 ERA in 65 games, including 35 starts, but pitched well.

The lefty allowed three hits in 4 2/3 scoreless innings, walking none and striking out eight, one off his career high.

The Braves lead the majors with 147 homers, 21 more than the Los Angeles Dodgers, the No. 2 team. They have 55 long balls in June, one off the franchise mark set in June 2019.

Atlanta improved to 20-4 this month, best in the majors.

“I think we were playing fine to start the season, but we’ve just kind of hit our stride here a little bit and playing some good baseball,” Olson said. “We can win many different ways. We know our pitching can throw up a zero any night and we scored just enough to have a comfortable lead and they did a great job.”

Kenta Maeda (1-5) allowed two runs and five hits in five innings. He was coming off his first win of the season last Friday at Detroit, where he threw five scoreless innings. Maeda missed all of May and most of June due to the aftereffects of Tommy John surgery, which sidelined him all of last season.

Iglesias earned his 13th save in 15 chances, facing the minimum batters in the ninth with two strikeouts.