With the Minnesota Twins well on their way to their third division title in five seasons, dropping the series opener to the host Cincinnati Reds on Monday paled in comparison to a potentially bigger loss along the way.
Two-time All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa, who revealed over the weekend that he has been playing despite the pain of plantar fasciitis in his left foot, aggravated the injury in the first inning on Monday.
Going into the second game of the three-game series on Tuesday, Twins acting manager Jayce Tingler wasn't sure of the extent of Correa's injury, which happened while he was catching a fly ball in shallow left field.
"We're going to know (Tuesday). He obviously aggravated the foot again," said Tingler, who was filling in with manager Rocco Baldelli absent after his wife delivered twins on Sunday. "These things happen with the plantar fasciitis and we'll kind of see how he's feeling (Tuesday) after a little bit of treatment (and) go from there."
Correa, who missed two games last week because of the injury, said he "felt a small little tweak there in the heel" during the play and that he has "been trying to manage" the plantar fasciitis for several months.
"(Monday) was the best I've felt in a long time. Before the game, I was running and jumping and jumping. I had a good session in the batting cage," said Correa, who leads the team with 135 games played out of 151 this season.
A career .272 hitter, Correa is at just .230 this season with 18 home runs, 65 RBIs and 60 runs.
Right-hander Kenta Maeda (5-7, 4.50 ERA) will start on Tuesday for Minnesota (79-72), which has a magic number of five to clinch the American League Central.
Maeda is coming off one of his best starts of the season. On Thursday, he gave the host Chicago White Sox just two runs on four hits and one walk over seven innings. He fanned eight in Minnesota's 10-2 victory. The Twins are 9-10 in games Maeda has pitched in this season.
Maeda is 2-1 with a 4.62 ERA in five career appearances (four starts) against the Reds.
Cincinnati, which has been piecing together a rotation for most of the season due to injuries and lately COVID-19, will go with right-hander Fernando Cruz (1-1, 4.05 ERA) as an opener. The rookie has never faced the Twins.
Right-hander Ben Lively (4-7, 5.22 ERA) is expected to pitch as well. Lively has made 12 starts this season, but he has logged just one relief appearance since returning from the COVID injured list last week.
The Monday win, made possible by an outstanding effort from rookie right-hander Connor Phillips, lifted the Reds (79-73) back into a tie with the Chicago Cubs (78-72) for the National League's third and final wild-card berth, one half-game ahead of the Miami Marlins (78-73).
Phillips, who began the season in Double-A and was brought up from Triple-A in early September to fill one of many holes in the rotation, was making just his third major league start. He held the Twins to two runs (on solo home runs by Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff) in seven innings. He struck out seven while yielding three hits and one walk.
It was only the 11th time this season that a Reds starter completed seven innings, and it came at a great time for manager David Bell.
"We've talked about how important these games are," Bell said. "That's a good hitting team over there. Important game. (Phillips) goes deep into the game, which gives our bullpen another break. ... In so many ways, it was just a huge start for our team."
—Field Level Media