HOUSTON – Twins righthander Alex Meyer struck out three Astros in the second inning Tuesday night while stranding a runner at second. He walked off the field with a 2-0 lead, finally getting to show how talented he is.
“The first two innings I felt good,” he said. “I proved to myself I could pitch up here. Really the first two good innings I’ve had in the major leagues.”
But, like many of his outings in the minors, things quickly turned.
He gave up a leadoff homer in the third. Then he labored. Then he gave up the lead. Then he was gone.
How far gone? He was sent to Class AAA Rochester after the game.
Meyer fell apart in the third as the Astros took the lead for good on their way to a 6-4 victory. Houston batters then scored three runs off Meyer’s replacement, Tommy Milone, in the fourth. It was enough to hold off the Twins, who got solo home runs from Danny Santana and Byung Ho Park.
Meyer was handed a 2-0 lead on Santana’s homer to start the game and Joe Mauer’s RBI groundout in the third.
Jason Castro led off the third with a home run to left that umpires had to check replay to confirm. Carlos Correa doubled in another, and Meyer’s changeup in the dirt allowed George Springer to score and give the Astros a 3-2 lead. Meyer got the next two batters out, but he had thrown his 28th pitch of the inning and 64th of the game, so manager Paul Molitor decided to remove him.
In 2⅔ innings, Meyer gave up three runs on three hits and three walks with four strikeouts. Meyer couldn’t throw his breaking ball consistently for strikes, and it got him in trouble.
“The ones he threw right at [the zone], they would freeze,” Molitor said of Houston’s hitters. “The ones he got the strikeouts on, he’s got to do that the first pitch and he’s got to throw it for a strike. That’s a hard pitch to hit when you [also] throw 97 [mph].”
Milone replaced Meyer, but Houston continued to pound away. Gomez led off the fourth with another double and went to third on a groundout. Castro walked, then a balk by Milone allowed Gomez to score and Castro to move to second.
Springer, who was drafted by the Twins in 2008 out of high school but did not sign, blasted a two-run homer to left to give Houston a 6-2 lead. The ball bounced off the railroad tracks on top of the left-field wall, then out of the stadium. No one moved at impact. Not Milone, not the Twins outfielders. Just Springer.
“I was a little too excited coming in,” Milone said. “I think I had a little too much Adrenalin going through my body. The pitcher that I am, I need to feel everything.”
The Twins pecked away at Astros starter Collin McHugh. Brian Dozier drove in Santana with a single in the fifth and Park hit his seventh homer of the year, a solo blast, to right in the sixth to get the Twins within 6-4.
Meyer’s nine-day stay in the majors, which included a relief outing Friday in addition to Tuesday’s start, is over. Reliever J.R. Graham will replace him on the roster. Meyer will try to work on his command and finishing off hitters while at Rochester, preferring to build off his first two innings rather than dwell on the third.
“That was a positive thing for me,” said Meyer, who was making his fourth career appearance but first major league start. “That’s something, obviously, to remember and just go from there.”