MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Rookie Danny Santana had another big game and Kyle Gibson pitched well at home again.
On Saturday, that formula added up to an impressive win.
Santana drove in five runs, Gibson pitched seven strong innings and the Twins beat the Houston Astros 8-0.
Santana, who hit his first major league home run on Friday night, flied out to lead off the first inning. He then got hits in his next four at-bats, raising his batting average to .373.
“Danny’s a good player. He’s electric,” Gibson said. “He puts a lot of pressure on the defense, and being a switch-hitter and being as versatile as he is on defense as well makes for a great player to have up here.”
Santana is normally an infielder, but he also has played center field this year. The last two games, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has written Santana into the lineup at designated hitter. It doesn’t seem to matter where he’s playing, however — he’s valuable wherever the Twins put him.
Santana hit a two-run single in the second, helping to chase Astros starter Scott Feldman (3-4). He added a two-run double in the fourth as the Twins broke it open with four runs against reliever Paul Clemens. Santana also had a pair of singles off Jerome Williams and drove in another run in the seventh.
That’s four hits off three different pitchers — not bad for a player with 67 career at-bats in the major leagues.
“He’s taking his swings,” Gardenhire said. “He doesn’t know these pitchers so he’s making some adjustments. He sees the breaking ball the first time and then he’s ready for it the next time.”
The Twins have played the last two days without another rookie, slugging right fielder Oswaldo Arcia, who sprained his ankle on Thursday against the Brewers. He’s been available only to pinch-hit, and his absence has been noticed by Gardenhire.
“You lose a guy like Arcia out of your lineup and you think, ‘Where’s it going to happen now?'” he said. “But somebody else just has to pick up the slack.”
Gibson (5-5) scattered three hits and three walks while striking out five, allowing only one runner to reach second base. He pushed his home record to 4-1 with a 1.54 ERA this year, but he remains searching for an answer for his road numbers — 1-4, 7.39.
“I don’t know what it is. I’m just comfortable throwing here,” Gibson said. “I’m definitely comfortable on the road as well, and I don’t think the numbers really get in my head — I’m still making pitches on the road. Maybe just not as many in big situations like I do at home.”
He was especially effective at keeping the ball on the ground — he induced 12 ground ball outs, including the last nine batters he retired.
Feldman was chased in the second inning as the Twins jumped to a 3-0 lead.
After a perfect first, Feldman hit Josh Willingham leading off the second. Trevor Plouffe followed with a grounder that third baseman Matt Dominguez misplayed for an error. A walk to Kurt Suzuki loaded the bases with one out, but Feldman appeared to be on the verge of escaping when he struck out Eduardo Escobar.
Shortstop Marwin Gonzalez bobbled Aaron Hicks’ grounder up the middle and a run scored. Santana hit a two-run single to right to put the Twins ahead 3-0, and Feldman got yanked after walking Brian Dozier to load the bases.
“Brutal,” Feldman said of his outing, which matched the shortest of his career. “I needed a pitch, (but it) just never happened. “
“It was one of those days, back-to-back guys struggle to command the strike zone,” Astros manager Bo Porter said. “Give Minnesota credit, they took pitch after pitch after pitch and put themselves into some good hitting counts. We didn’t help ourselves by allowing them to extend innings.”
Clemens retired Joe Mauer on a fly ball to end the inning. But Clemens walked five batters in the fourth inning as the Twins scored four more runs.
NOTES: The Twins’ promotional giveaway on Saturday was the “Gardy Gnome,” a figurine depicting a gnome-like version of Gardenhire kicking a hat. “I told the promotions people, ‘Whatever you want to do, go ahead,'” a slightly sheepish Gardenhire said. … The Astros had won their previous six road games before Saturday’s loss.(backslash)
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