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Keller wins 6th straight start as Pirates blank Twins

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Mitch Keller pitched six scoreless innings to win his sixth straight start, Oneil Cruz homered for a second consecutive game and the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Minnesota Twins 3-0 on Friday night.

Keller (8-3) scattered seven hits while striking eight and walking two. He also pitched at least five innings for the 44th straight time, the longest active streak in the major leagues.

During his winning streak, Keller has allowed five runs in 39 2/3 innings for a 1.13 ERA. He’s the first Pirates pitcher to win six consecutive starts since Gerrit Cole in 2015.

“Anything being (mentioned) with Gerrit is pretty cool,” Keller said. “He’s someone I look up to, so that’s pretty cool. Good rhythm. I’m trying to keep it going. Probably more crisp now that it’s warming up. I just feel a little bit better each time out.”

Aroldis Chapman, Colin Holderman and David Bednar each pitched one scoreless inning of relief to finish the eight-hitter. Bednar notched his 13th save in 16 opportunities as the Pirates recorded their third shutout of the season and won for the third time in their last four games.

“It’s kind of like handing the ball off, just passing the baton,” Bednar said of the relievers. “It’s been really cool watching those guys work. They’re nasty.”

Cruz hit a 422-foot drive into the stands in right-center field off Joe Ryan (4-5) to lead off the second. It was his team-high ninth of the season and came after he hit a 462-foot shot Thursday night in a loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“Any time a guy hits a ball that high, that far, you definitely step back,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “We know when Oneil’s in the right spot mechanically, he has the ability to really impact the baseball, and we’ve seen that the last two nights.”

Connor Joe homered with two outs in the eighth to extend the Pirates’ lead to 3-0, connecting against Griffin Jax.

Bryan Reynolds doubled to lead off the fourth and scored on Nick Gonzales’ sacrifice fly, the 23rd RBI for the second baseman in 25 games since being recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis. Reynolds had two of the Pirates’ four hits.

Ryan allowed two runs and two hits in seven innings with eight strikeouts and two walks as the Twins lost their fourth straight. Trevor Larnach, Carlos Correa, Jose Miranda and Byron Buxton had two hits each for the Twins, but they were shut out for the fourth time.

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