Phil Hughes doesn’t get excited, exactly, when he faces one of the best pitchers in baseball. After all, he said Thursday, “I want a bunch of run support.” But the righthander does approach big situations in games against top pitchers more carefully, he said, “because you know you have no room for error.”
He showed another approach on Thursday: Don’t face any big situations. Hughes won a showdown between 13-game winners by limiting the Indians to five hits over seven innings — four singles and a home run, never more than one an inning. It was Hughes’ fourth consecutive win, handing Corey Kluber his first loss since June 30, and tying him for the AL lead in victories at 14-8.
“When you get on good stretches, when everything is working for you mechanically, the game plan kind of falls in place,” the Twins righthander said. “I feel like today was some of the worst stuff I’ve had in quite a while, and I was able to grind it out, so it’s nice.”
Hughes had already faced David Price, Masahiro Tanaka and Justin Verlander this season, so he wasn’t fazed by facing Kluber, who had allowed two runs in August. He’s now on a streak of his own: Hughes has allowed exactly one run in each of his past four starts, driving his ERA to 3.65, lowest it’s been since June.
The ex-Yankee was bothered by his broken index fingernail once more but said it’s nothing he hasn’t dealt with for years. “I just have to constantly keep an eye on it, superglue it, file it,” he said. “It’s not a fun thing to deal with, but it doesn’t seem to be affecting my curveball too much.”
• Hughes had reason to wonder about his run support, considering the Twins had not scored a run, nor collected an extra-base hit, since the first inning of Tuesday’s loss to Cleveland. The scoreless streak reached a season-high 20 innings before Kennys Vargas connected on a solo home run in the fourth inning.
• Jordan Schafer was thrown out trying to steal second after walking in the seventh inning, his first unsuccessful attempt after swiping six bases since joining the Twins. Manager Ron Gardenhire challenged the call, but it was upheld. Counting his three months with Atlanta, Schafer is now 21-for-24 on the bases this season.
• The Twins challenged one other play, a tag at second base. Oswaldo Arcia fielded Carlos Santana’s base hit off the wall and threw to second base, where umpire C.B. Bucknor called him safe. But replays showed that shortstop Danny Santana tagged him before he reached the base, and the call was overturned. The Twins have been successful on 14 of their 29 challenges this season.
• Yohan Pino has been named, as expected, to start the afternoon game against Detroit on Saturday, under the rule allowing a team to add a 26th player to the roster for doubleheaders. Because 10 days have not passed since he was optioned to Class AAA Rochester, Pino must be returned to the minors after the game.
• For the third time in their past four series, the Twins were facing a sweep but salvaged the series finale. The Twins are 22-19 in the final game of a series.