Doubleheaders are no big deal, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire insisted before a long day at Target Field.
The 18 innings waiting on the field for his team were of no concern to Gardenhire as long as they included a pair of extended starts from his pitchers.
The request was clear and Twins starting pitcher Scott Diamond was well-prepared for the need in Game 1 of Saturday's doubleheader. The lefthander was fresh off a career-long start and maintained his rhythm during the afternoon game. He lasted eight innings and picked up a 7-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals.
"To be able to go eight today feels pretty good," Diamond said. "I just tried to keep the innings as quick as I could so we could get back in there in the shade. I'd rather have [teammates] in the shade than sitting around in the sun."
The extended start never was in question for Diamond. He worked swiftly throughout the afternoon, averaging four- to five-minute innings into the sixth. He faced only one batter more than the minimum in the first five innings before giving up a run.
He threw 48 pitches during that span, relying heavily on his defense and striking out none.
"You just hope your starters carry you a little bit to give you innings and a chance to win the ballgames," Gardenhire said before the game.
Diamond matched his career-long outing of eight innings he earned a week ago against Cincinnati. The young pitcher knew he was doing something special as he battled through some late-inning bumps. With runners on second and third and a run already across in the eighth, Diamond struck out Billy Butler to end the threat.
A subtle and quick jerk of his throwing arm following the final out was all the emotion the lefty showed in his seventh win.
He threw 101 pitches, giving up two runs on six hits and two walks with four strikeouts. Glen Perkins pitched a scoreless ninth for the Twins.
"I try to hide [emotion] for the most part, but I was pretty happy because I felt like that was a big pitch and a big at-bat and I really think that [Butler] is a game-changer," Diamond said with a smile.
The quick learner already is benefitting from last week's extended start. Diamond said he has adjusted his preparation and in-game approach to lengthen outings, something catcher Ryan Doumit recognized.
"We had a good pace going, and he was working strike one all day." Doumit said. "It makes it a lot easier [on long days]. The more time you can spend in the dugout the better."
Offense was no problem for the Twins. Royals starter Jonathan Sanchez handed out free passes all afternoon. Sanchez struggled to throw strikes, and eventually the Twins capitalized.
The erratic pitching overwhelmed Sanchez in the fifth inning, though it was the only frame during which he didn't issue one of his six walks. He gave up five consecutive hits for four runs before his day ended.
Alexi Casilla collected two of the RBI in the Twins' four-run fifth and finished 3-for-4 with two stolen bases.
"Always goes with your starting pitcher. Diamond was fantastic ... was ahead and had some quick innings early, which really helped us," Gardenhire said. "We kept saying, 'Take what they give you' ... We kept running and finally put some runs up on the board, and Diamond did the rest."