MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Kenta Maeda steered himself back on track by keeping the Texas Rangers scoreless into the sixth inning, and the Minnesota Twins won the opener of a four-game series 6-5 on Monday night.
Maeda (2-2) had a season-high eight strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings, allowing only two singles and two walks in what was by far the best of his six starts this season.
“I guess I was skewed toward bad habits, so I made some adjustments with the mechanics and we talked a little about the mental side of the game,” Maeda said through a translator. “And I think it all came out together in a good way.”
Jorge Polanco had an RBI triple and an RBI double, and rookie Alex Kirilloff kept up his torrid start with two doubles for the Twins. One of them was a two-out, run-scoring line drive to left field in a three-run sixth that came against the left-handed reliever, Kolby Allard, brought in to face him.
“We didn’t have a homer, but I almost feel we did have a homer, the way we swung the bats,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said.
Adolis García hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning for the Rangers against Brandon Waddell, who was called up from Triple-A before the game, but Tyler Duffey escaped with a 5-3 lead intact after allowing his inherited runner to score.
Joey Gallo hit a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth against Taylor Rogers, who got his second save by striking out García.
Maybe the biggest mystery of Minnesota’s rough first month was the struggle by Maeda, who finished second in AL Cy Young Award voting last year. This was more like it, as he lowered his ERA from 6.56 to 5.34 while leading the Twins to their fourth victory in five games.
“Sometimes, he has bad outings. But today, he was really good,” Polanco said.
Dane Dunning (1-2) bounced back, too, allowing two earned runs in 5 2/3 innings for the Rangers.
“He kept everybody off the barrel. That’s one thing he does very well,” manager Chris Woodward said.
Kirilloff went to third on a flyout by Polanco in the second and scored on Gallo’s errant throw from right field. The ball ricocheted away from Dunning, who was backing up the base. Had he been slightly better positioned, “that saves a run and the game’s completely different,” Dunning said.
Luis Arraez scored on Josh Donaldson’s two-out double in the third, when he awkwardly collided with airborne catcher Jose Trevino’s legs. The players were tangled, but Trevino’s glove hand never grazed Arraez before he leaped up to touch the plate. Arraez was later pulled with a headache and put in the concussion protocol.
Byron Buxton, who went hitless for only the fourth game this season, was selected the AL player of the month for April. He’s the first Twins player to win the monthly award since Delmon Young in July 2010. Buxton hit .426 in 68 at-bats with the best OPS (1.363) for any month in team history.
Rangers: No decision had been made yet on whether RHP Kohei Arihara (sore right middle finger) will need time on the injured list, Woodward said. Arihara’s next turn in the rotation has already been pushed back. He’ll play catch Tuesday to test his finger.
Twins: Starting pitchers for Wednesday and Thursday had yet to be determined, with Michael Pineda hurting a little and Matt Shoemaker struggling a lot. Pineda was hit on the wrist by a batted ball and has experienced swelling and stiffness since. RHP Randy Dobnak was sent to Triple-A St. Paul for more work, eliminating one option for a fill-in starter.
Twins LHP J.A. Happ (2-0, 1.96 ERA) takes the mound on Tuesday night, when Rangers RHP Kyle Gibson (3-0, 2.16 ) makes his first appearance against his longtime team. Drafted in the first round in 2009, Gibson pitched seven seasons in Minnesota before signing with Texas last year. He is the career leader in both wins (32) and losses (36) at Target Field.
The oldest of Gibson’s three children, 7-year-old daughter Hayden, assured him prior to the series she would be cheering for him despite her diehard allegiance to the Twins. She once asked her parents if she could marry Buxton’s son, Brix, who is the same age.
“I’ve got to take it easy there, because you never know when that relationship’s going to go farther,” Gibson said, when asked if he anticipated any friendly ribbing of his former teammates.
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