Ever since he was traded by the Twins before the 2010 season, Carlos Gomez has played with a chip on his shoulder against his former teams.
But there would be no postgame hubris for Gomez on Monday night at Target Field after his adventures in center field helped the Twins beat Houston 3-1.
The Twins have won nine of their past 12 games and are 21-12 since July 1. And Monday victory, which took a season-quickest 2 hours, 18 minutes to play, enabled the Twins to pass Tampa Bay and no longer have the worst record in the American League.
A tidy pitchers’ duel between Twins righthander Tyler Duffey (8-7) and Houston righthander Collin McHugh (7-9) was interrupted by an outbreak of Gomez-ness in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Here’s how his adventures happened:
Eddie Rosario, who was 3-for-4 and hit the ball hard all night, singled to open the inning for the Twins. Jorge Polanco then executed a hit-and-run by lining a ball toward center that, somehow, skipped by Gomez and rolled to the fence. Rosario scored the first run of the game.
Juan Centeno followed with a fly ball that Gomez lost in the … evening sky? He held out his arms for help, but the ball landed about 25 feet behind him on the warning track.
“Gomez lost one in the twilight,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said, “which didn’t hurt our cause.”
Polanco scored as Centeno raced to third with a triple. Danny Santana added an RBI single to put the Twins up 3-0.
“The first one, I thought I had it and it missed my glove,” Gomez said. “The second one, I don’t know where the ball is at. It’s something you don’t feel good about. It made us lose the game. I feel worse than anyone in the clubhouse.”
Houston scored a run in the sixth and had two on and one out against Duffey, who got Carlos Correa to ground out to third and then struck out Evan Gattis with his 95th and final pitch of the sixth.
Duffey gave up one run on four hits and a walk while striking out eight — his highest strikeout total since July 7. The Twins bullpen pitched three scoreless innings, with Brandon Kinztler getting his 10th save in 11th opportunities.
The combination of Duffey, his relievers and Gomez’s one bad inning in center enabled the Twins to win for only the fourth time when they scored three or fewer runs this season.
“It all started with my fastball command,” Duffey said. “I got the sinker over the plate when I wanted to. Got it down and away. Got some later in the game up and in.
“It started with that and allowed me to really get the breaking ball going.”
• Molitor was able to get a message to Ichiro Suzuki to congratulate the Miami outfielder for his 3,000th career hit. The two have been friends since Molitor was Suzuki’s hitting coach in Seattle for a season. And, like Molitor, Suzuki got a triple for his 3,000th hit.
“That makes it kind of special,” Molitor said. “Kind of a little bond we developed 12 years ago. We can stay connected with that triple as well.”
• Joe Mauer and Max Kepler were named AL co-players of the week. Mauer batted .560 with a home run, nine RBI, six doubles and eight runs scored. Kepler batted .370 with four homers, 11 RBI, and nine runs scored.
• Class AA lefthander Tyler Jay, one of the Twins’ top starting pitching prospects, has been was diagnosed with neurapraxia. That means he has a stretched nerve in his neck/shoulder area and is expected to resume throwing in a week to 10 days. Jay, a 2015 first-round pick, has a 5.79 ERA in five appearances at Chattanooga after being promoted from Class A Fort Myers.