MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Byron Buxton had three hits, including an RBI triple for the second straight game, and the Minnesota Twins beat the Colorado Rockies 6-3 on Sunday to stretch their division lead ahead of a pivotal series against Cleveland.

Max Kepler added two hits and two RBIs for the Twins, who have a two-game lead in the AL Central race. They hit the road for five games in four days against the Guardians, who overtook the Twins this week only to lose four straight — including a sweep at home by Boston.

Joe Ryan (6-3) grinded through 102 pitches over five innings to record his first win in more than a month. The Twins gave him some help with a three-run first inning against Rockies starter Ryan Feltner (1-3). Kepler, Alex Kirilloff and Gio Urshela hit consecutive RBI singles.

The triple by Buxton, who also doubled, singled and scored three times, keyed a two-run second inning. He hit the ball into the gap in left center and did a head-first lunge into third base.

Buxton had been held out of the starting lineup for three straight games to rest his persistently sore and swollen right knee, but Saturday and Sunday showed why the team still counts on him to be a catalyst.

One of the fastest players in baseball, Buxton went almost three years without a triple until his pair of three-baggers this weekend. He also scored from first base on Kepler’s two-out double in the seventh down the left-field line to give the Twins some insurance.

WORKING HIS WAY BACK

Ryan, who leads all major league rookies in wins, has not yet rediscovered his form since contracting COVID-19. In three starts since returning from the virus, Ryan has logged 15 2/3 innings with 20 hits, 10 runs and four home runs allowed with only 11 strikeouts.

Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon took Ryan deep in the third inning for his 12th homer of the season, cutting the lead to 5-2.

BETTER, BUT …

The Rockies brought their lagging offense to life a bit with 12 hits, including RBI doubles by C.J. Cron and Yonathan Daza, but they left the bases loaded with no outs against reliever Caleb Thielbar in the sixth inning. Overall, Colorado stranded 11 runners, bringing the season total to 531; the Rockies were tied for third-most in the majors entering the game.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rockies: 3B Kris Bryant, who has missed 50 games over the last two months with two separate injured list stints, has been cleared to return from his rehab assignment and can rejoin the team in Denver on Monday. He could be activated prior to the game.

Twins: RHP Joe Smith was placed on the 15-day injured list with tightness in his upper trapezoid muscle, which is around the neck. LHP Jovani Moran was recalled from Triple-A St. Paul to take Smith’s place in the bullpen, his third stint in the majors this season. The Twins have 14 players on the injured list, including 10 who have missed more than 20 games each.

UP NEXT

Twins: RHP Sonny Gray (3-1, 2.53 ERA) will open the five-game series Monday night in Cleveland (5:30 PM, 1060/103.1 KGFX), with RHP Triston McKenzie (4-5, 3.51 ERA) taking the mound for the home team. Gray and McKenzie were the starting pitchers here on Wednesday night when the Guardians won 11-10.



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