Amid a revolving-door flurry of buttress-the-bullpen transactions, mostly caused by their six-game losing streak, the Twins wound up needing a fill-in starter to open the homestand.
They settled on Aaron Slegers. In doing so, they ended the losing streak.
Slegers earned his first career victory Thursday — but only a tentative “maybe” about getting another start next week — by allowing only three hits and a lone run over six innings as the Twins eked out their first victory in a week, 5-2 over the Baltimore Orioles at Target Field.
“Aaron really picked us up. To come in and have to start a homestand, knowing we came off the [road] trip that we did, and to pitch as well as he did, it was good,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “We needed a win, and we found a way to get it done.”
The Twins, who scored only two runs in their final 23 innings at Milwaukee this week, didn’t exactly batter Orioles starter Andrew Cashner, but they got to the Baltimore bullpen enough to put away a slump-busting victory. They used a lineup that included five hitters batting .220 or lower on the season, but somehow it worked: Three of them collected two or more hits.
Logan Morrison, batting .189 coming into the game, had his first two-hit night at Target Field since June 2. He smacked an outside fastball from Cashner the opposite way, drilling it five rows deep into the left-field seats for a solo home run in the fourth inning, then singled and scored during the Twins’ two-run eighth.
“He’s been hitting plenty of balls hard. He just hasn’t had a lot of positive results,” Molitor said. “Tonight, he lined out in the first inning, then came back and went the other way. He’s just trying to build and not worry too much about where it’s going or what it’s doing.”
Max Kepler, who entered the night owning a .219 average, doubled and singled, and Jake Cave, hitting only .217, went 3-for-3 with a walk. He doubled and scored in the third inning, then doubled home Kepler in the eighth.
Nearly as big a contribution from Cave: a Byron Buxton-esque leap at the center field wall to catch a Chris Davis blast, an effort applauded by Slegers.
“I saw that all year in Rochester,” Slegers said of his Class AAA teammate. “He’s like me, just new up here. I know he can really flash [the defense] out there, and that was fun to watch.”
But so was Slegers, who has started four games for the Twins but never more than once in any two-week period. The righthander appeared confident and competent all night, and he made only one major mistake against the last-place Orioles. Jonathan Schoop smashed that one far into the upper deck in left field, a home run that he would reprise two innings later against Addison Reed.
Schoop’s two-homer night couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of a victory-starved crowd of 23,895, who were standing as Fernando Rodney completed a spotless ninth inning to earn his 18th save — but first since June 24, after back-to-back misfires on the Twins’ 1-8 road trip.
Slegers was given the start on Thursday partly because the Twins have made so many changes to their pitching roster over the past couple of weeks. Now Molitor needs another starter next Tuesday against Kansas City, too, and probably the following Sunday against Tampa Bay. Considering the Twins hadn’t had a starter credited with a victory since June 24, we might as well pencil in the 6-10 kid who only needed 72 pitches to record 18 outs, right?
“We’re going to figure that out,” was all Molitor would commit to. “Off the top of my head, I would say that, between the [five-inning May 30] bullpen outing he gave us and tonight, there would be strong consideration to do that.”
Hmm. Have an opinion about that, Aaron? “I do what they tell me,” he said.