DENVER – Phil Hughes made it through five innings Sunday to improve to 10-5 on the season, becoming the first Twins pitcher to win 10 games by the All-Star break since Carl Pavano in 2010.
But it was the second time he has won despite giving up five earned runs over five innings.
“Nowadays with all the different stats in baseball I think wins are losing their luster a little bit,” he said after the Twins pulled away to beat Colorado 13-5.. “Nevertheless, it’s certainly an accomplishment I’m proud of. The offense and defense deserve a lot of credit. I have gotten away with couple of these cheap five-inning wins, but at the end of the day 10 wins is nothing to be ashamed of in the first half.”
The Twins staked him to a five-run lead in the first inning on seven hits. But that means little at Coors Field. Hughes had to figure how his pitches were breaking in the thin air. Meanwhile, he left a few up and paid the price, as the Rockies scored two in the first and two in the second to keep the pressure on.
“He tried to pitch backwards the last couple of innings,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “By then, he was fighting to get through it.”
He picked the right day to face the Rockies on the road, as the Twins pounded out a season-high 18 hits. Brian Dozier hit two home runs and had four RBI. Trevor Plouffe was a homer shy of the cycle. Eduardo Escobar was 3-for-4.
Hughes is 5-4 with a 4.62 ERA over his past nine starts. “I was glad to get through it and finish up this road trip,” he said.
Gardenhire said he expects to have Danny Santana back in his lineup Friday, when the Twins return from the All-Star break to open a three-game series against Tampa Bay.
Santana is recovering from a bone bruise near his left knee and is about to play in rehab games for Class A Fort Myers. Monday, he will play five innings in center field. Wednesday, he will play shortstop for seven innings. Thursday, he will play nine innings in center. Tuesday is a scheduled off day.
Yes, mega-prospect Byron Buxton will DH the days Santana is in the outfield.
If all goes well, Santana will join the Twins on Friday at Target Field.
The Twins enter the All-Star break with a 44-50 record, a step forward from 39-53 a year ago. But principal owner Jim Pohlad made it clear Sunday he’s not satisfied at all with the marginal improvement.
“I know we’ve made progress,” he said in an interview with K-TWIN radio taped before the Futures Game at Target Field, “but to be honest with you, the results are disappointing.”
The team does not appear to be a postseason contender, Pohlad noted, so improvement isn’t enough.
“It’s like saying, ‘Would you rather have strep throat or appendicitis?’ ” he said. “Both are illnesses you don’t want.”