Brian Dozier is adamant the Twins’ early struggles have not drained the morale in the clubhouse.
“Nothing has blown up in here,” the second baseman said. “We are still bringing a lot of energy to the park every day.”
He can articulate those feelings any way he wants. When a team with postseason aspirations starts off 10-16, more evidence than words was needed.
The Twins needed a game in which they scored early, got a strong starting pitching performance, had the bullpen do its job and maybe tack on a couple of insurance runs when leading for a change.
It just so happens they played one of those games Wednesday when they rode the strong major league debut of pitcher Fernando Romero and beat Toronto 4-0 to avoid getting swept in the three-game series and ended a 2-4 homestand.
“We’ve gotten kicked in the stomach a couple of times this week,” first baseman Logan Morrison said. “That’s a good win to get out of here on.”
Road games against the White Sox (four), Cardinals (two) and Angels (four) will be the next test for the Twins as they try to overcome their mediocre start.
It began on the mound with Romero, who announced his arrival to the majors with 98-miles-per-hour fastballs with movement, a solid slider and a changeup that needs refinement.
In 5⅔ innings, Romero gave up four hits and three walks with five strikeouts. His one downfall was falling behind too many batters. He went to three-ball counts five times, had eight at-bats that lasted at least six pitches and two that went seven pitches.
But it was good enough — along with four relievers combining to throw 3⅓ shutout innings — to keep Toronto off the scoreboard. His live arm will be a significant addition to a rotation that has another talented youngster in 23-year-old Jose Berrios.
“I felt so great. I felt so good,” said Romero, who is also 23. “I did the best I could do, which is pitch. I’ve been working on hitting the spot. Couldn’t do it [Wednesday] like I usually do. But we’re still working on it.”
Romero was one out away from achieving something Twins starters have done only 10 times in 26 games — last through six innings.
“We know his command can be a little bit iffy,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “But as you can see, his stuff is alive and he made a lot of hitters uncomfortable in the batter’s box.”
Eddie Rosario put the Twins ahead in the second inning with a solo home run to left-center, his fifth of the season. He went 2-for-4, and was 5-for-12 with two home runs in the series.
Max Kepler grounded out with the bases loaded in the third inning to give the Twins a 2-0 lead. Then they added two runs in the eighth on a sacrifice fly by Robbie Grossman and a bases-loaded walk by Gregorio Petit.
Relievers Trevor Hildenberger, Zach Duke, Addison Reed and Fernando Rodney continued the string of zeros Romero started to wrap up the Twins’ third shutout of the season. Now the Twins will try to string more of these days together, because that’s what contending teams do.
“Everybody is still energized and still optimistic, which you should be,” said Dozier, who is in a 3-for-35 slump. “We just need to win and reassure that, going on the road trip. We think we can do some damage.”