Minnesota Twins relief pitcher Dylan Floro (58) celebrates with catcher...

Minnesota Twins relief pitcher Dylan Floro (58) celebrates with catcher Ryan Jeffers following a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds in Cincinnati, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023. Credit: AP/Jeff Dean

CINCINNATI — Willi Castro hit a two-run homer and made two spectacular catches, Kenta Maeda combined on a four-hitter and the Minnesota Twins beat the Cincinnati Reds 7-0 on Tuesday night in another step toward their third AL Central title in five seasons.

Ryan Jeffers added a solo homer for Minnesota (80-72), which opened an eight-game lead over second-place Cleveland with 10 games remaining.

Cincinnati (79-74), shut out for the 10th time, is one game behind the Chicago Cubs for the NL's final wild card, also trailing Miami by a half-game.

In his first season after Tommy John surgery, Maeda (6-7) won his third straight start after four no-decisions. He allowed one hit in five innings, retiring his first 11 batters before Spencer Steer doubled to left and Jake Fraley. After a double steal, Castro made a diving catch of Tyler Stephenson’s liner to center, which could have tied the game had it dropped.

“It was exceptional," Maeda said through an interpreter. "That play saved us at least two runs. I want to give him as much hugs as possible.”

Castro leaped at the wall to rob Stephenson of a home run in the seventh, a day after Michael A. Taylor denied Will Benson on a drive to center.

“Castro took four runs off the board tonight,” Reds manager David Bell said. “It is amazing how a play like that can absolutely change a game. It changes how we manage the game and how they manage the game. It is all about players making plays. They were able to do that tonight.”

Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Kenta Maeda throws to a Cincinnati...

Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Kenta Maeda throws to a Cincinnati Reds batter during the third inning of a baseball game in Cincinnati, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023. Credit: AP/Jeff Dean

Castro considered the second catch better, primarily because he was looking at his position card when Stephenson hit the ball.

“I didn’t see him hit it, but I was able to track it," Castro said. “I think it was the best play. You don't see those plays too often.”

Despite not having his best four-seam fastball, Maeda struck out eight and walked one. Kody Funderburk, Emilio Pagán, Caleb Thielbar and Dylan Floro finished the Twins' 12th shutout.

“I didn’t feel perfect today, but I was able to get five innings,” Maeda said. “I was able to use my offspeed pitches to get swings and misses.”

Minnesota Twins' Andrew Stevenson, from left to right, Max Kepler,...

Minnesota Twins' Andrew Stevenson, from left to right, Max Kepler, Matt Wallner (38) and Edouard Julien (47) celebrate following a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds in Cincinnati, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023. Credit: AP/Jeff Dean

Fernando Cruz (1-2) walked Max Kepler in the second and was charged with the game's first run when Matt Wallner singled off Buck Farmer,

Castro homered in the seventh on a 352-foot fly to right off off Ben Lively that opened a 6-0 lead.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Twins: INF Royce Lewis appeared to hurt a leg while running out a double-play ball in the sixth. He stayed in the game, then left after fouling off a 2-1 pitch in the eighth. Minnesota said he had left hamstring tightness.

Reds: OF Harrison Bader was diagnosed with a sports hernia. He will return to his home in New York to rehab, … INF Matt McLain (right oblique strain) is taking light batting practice.

UP NEXT

Reds RHP Hunter Greene (4-6, 4.45, 129 strikeouts) is due to face Twins RHP Bailey Ober (7-6, 3.67, 126 strikeouts) in Wednesday’s series finale.

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