HOUSTON (AP) — Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said rookie starter Louie Varland deserved an offensive game ball after throwing seven scoreless innings in a victory over the Houston Astros Wednesday night.
An odd comment considering the right-hander didn’t step to the plate in the victory.
“He made life difficult on their side of the field because their (starter) kept having to run out there immediately because the at-bats were one and two and three pitches,” Baldelli said. “Lou just kept pounding the strike zone … those quick innings, they help our offense in a huge way.”
Donovan Solano drove in a season-high four runs to help the Twins to the 8-2 win.
It was a career-long outing for the 25-year-old Varland (3-1), who allowed four hits — all singles — and struck out five with a walk. He threw just 86 pitches.
“I was throwing everything in the zone,” he said. “Their approach kept me in the game long because it was like swing away and it was just outs — fly outs, ground outs.”
Solano drove in two runs with a single in Minnesota’s three-run third and added two more RBIs in the sixth to make it 7-0.
Ryan Jeffers had two hits and two RBIs to help the Twins take the series 2-1 after his 10th inning homer Monday gave them a 7-5 win in the opener.
It was the first series win for Minnesota since taking two of three from the Cubs May 12-14.
Houston rookie starter Hunter Brown (5-2) yielded six hits and a career-high five runs with eight strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings for his first loss since May 2.
Brown sailed through the first two innings, retiring the first six batters he faced with five strikeouts before running into trouble in the third.
Max Kepler and Willi Castro hit consecutive singles to start the inning before Brown walked Michael A. Taylor to load the bases.
There was one out in the inning when Solano singled on a line drive to right field that scored 2 to put the Twins up 2-0. Alex Kirilloff followed with a single on a grounder to left field to send another run home.
There were two outs in the fifth and a runner on first when Kyle Farmer singled to chase Brown.
“I had to go get him because his pitch count got real high,” manager Dusty Baker said. “He had 100 pitches and we’ve got to take care of this guy. Then we couldn’t close the floodgates.”
Parker Mushinski took over and plunked Joey Gallo to load the bases.
Jeffers then hit a ground-rule double which bounced into the Houston bullpen in right-center to score 2 and extend the lead to 5-0.
The Twins didn’t let up in the sixth when Castro singled to start the inning before Taylor walked. Solano doubled with one out in the inning to score them both and make it 7-0.
Taylor hit an RBI double with two outs in the seventh to leave Minnesota up 8-0.
Jorge López relieved Varland to start the eighth and Jake Meyers and Yainer Diaz hit back-to-back homers to cut the lead to 8-2. He walked Mauricio Dubón and was lifted after hitting Jeremy Peña with a pitch on the left pinkie.
Brock Stewart took over and retired Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman and Corey Julks to end the inning.
Twins: RHP Kenta Maeda (strained right triceps) and LHP Caleb Thielbar (strained right oblique) both began rehabilitation assignments with Triple-A St. Paul Tuesday night. Maeda didn’t allow a hit with four strikeouts in two innings. Thielbar yielded one hit in a scoreless inning.
Twins: Minnesota RHP Pablo López (3-3, 4.11 ERA) opposes Cleveland RHP Tanner Bibee (1-1, 2.88) when the Twins open a four-game series against the Guardians Thursday night.
Astros: Houston opens a four-game series against the Angels Thursday night with LHP Reid Detmers (0-4, 4.93) pitching for Los Angeles. The Astros haven’t announced their rotation for the series.
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