CLEVELAND - After finally notching his first major league victory, in his 18th career start, Twins rookie Liam Hendriks received the requisite shaving cream pie in the face during a postgame television interview.
"If he makes us wait that long for the next one, it's gasoline," manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Gardenhire presented Hendriks with the lineup card, signed by all the players, which included Josh Willingham, who went 4-for-5 with four RBI and hit his 35th home run in the 6-4 victory over Cleveland at Progressive Field.
"It's been a long, long time and it feels fantastic," Hendriks said. "I'm at a loss for words right now. I'm excited and happy, and it's such a great thing. I'm the 16th Australian player to win a major league game, so it's put me in very great company."
Hendriks, 23, who hails from Perth, Australia, allowed a first-inning home run to Asdrubal Cabrera and let the Indians tie it two innings later, after the Twins had taken a 2-1 lead. But his final pitching line looked pretty good: six innings, two hits, two earned runs, two walks, two strikeouts.
In his first 17 career starts, including four last September, Hendriks went 0-9. Since 1920, only four other major league pitchers have opened their careers with 17 winless starts: Bill Caudill (20), Mike Mohler (20), Craig Anderson (17) and Jason Hammel (17).
This streak was especially confounding for the Twins because Hendriks went 38-20 with a 2.65 ERA in five minor-league seasons.
"Any time it takes you this long to get a win, it weighs on you a little bit," said Hendriks, now 1-7 with a 5.88 ERA for the season. "It's a great feeling to get that first one, and hopefully I can finish off the season with a couple more."
Gardenhire mixed things up by pairing Hendriks with catcher Chris Herrmann, his spring training roommate. It was Herrmann's first career start, and he'd caught Hendriks several times in the minors. Of course, in the fourth inning, they got their signals crossed, as Herrmann called for a slider, only to have Hendriks fire a fastball, resulting in a passed ball.
Hendriks blamed himself.
"I think it was an Australian thing," Gardenhire said.
The mood was light after the Twins pulled ahead of the Indians, out of last place, at 62-87.
After hitting an RBI single in the third inning, Willingham smacked a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the fifth off Indians starter Zach McAllister (5-8), becoming the first Twin with 35 home runs since Harmon Killebrew hit 41 in 1970.
Herrmann's first career RBI made it 5-2, and Willingham added a two-out, RBI single in the sixth, making it 6-2.
Willingham has 110 RBI, and the Twins were glad he kept hitting. With Hendriks at 97 pitches, Gardenhire went to his bullpen. Alex Burnett got three quick outs in the seventh, but Cleveland rallied for two runs in the eighth, with run-scoring hits off Burnett and Tyler Robertson.
Glen Perkins pitched the ninth, earning his 13th save and sealing that elusive first victory for Hendriks.
"I think everybody had a sigh of relief after the game, just knowing he got it," Willingham said. "Hopefully he'll get on a roll now."