HOUSTON — Eddie Rosario's clutch hit in the sixth inning Saturday night was recorded as a two-run double to right. But its path to freedom included twists and turns and a fortuitous deflection.
Somehow, Rosario's bouncer up the middle eluded a lunging pitcher and a sprawling Gold Glove-winning second baseman before making its way to the outfield. It became the biggest hit of the series for the Twins, who pulled off a 4-2 victory over Houston at Minute Maid Park — one that ended a seven-game losing streak to the Astros going back to last season.
Rosario's hit broke a 2-2 tie and breathed life into a Twins offense that had spent the first two games after the All-Star break repeatedly leaving runners on base against the American League's best team.
"It's how it goes, I guess," said Rosario, was who was 2-for-4 to lift his average to .289. "You want to hit the ball hard and get a nice hit. But sometimes you do things like that."
It also made Ervin Santana's effort stand up. The All-Star walked five and twice pitched his way out of bases-loaded jams, improving to 11-6. Tyler Duffey loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh, but Taylor Rogers escaped that inning, then pitched a 1-2-3 eighth before Brandon Kintzler threw a scoreless ninth for his 25th save.
"We got a chance, after a really nice win tonight," Twins manager Paul Molitor said, "to come back and try to get two out of three."
The series could be different if the Twins weren't wasting so many opportunities.
The Astros looked unstoppable Friday when they raced to a 10-1 lead. But the Twins got within 10-5 before leaving two on in the fifth, three in the sixth and two more in the eighth. That trend continued Saturday.
Brian Dozier hit his second leadoff homer in as many nights, but Houston scored in the second and third for a 2-1 lead. Then the stranded baserunners piled up.
Robbie Grossman and Rosario both struck out with two on in the fourth. The Twins loaded the bases with no outs in the fifth, but they managed only to score the tying run as Zack Granite hit into a double play.
Then came the sixth, when Miguel Sano walked before Max Kepler and Grossman singled — the fifth time in the series the Twins had loaded the bases. At that point, they were 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position in the game, and neither hit had scored a run. They were 3-for-22 in the series.
Here's where baseball became pinball. Houston starter Joe Musgrove was replaced by lefthander Tony Sipp. Rosario tapped an 0-2 slider to the first-base side of the pitcher's mound. Sipp reached for the ball, but it deflected off his glove.
All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve took off to his right at the crack of the bat but had to reverse course as the ball deflected to where he vacated. Altuve sprawled on the dirt as he reached for the ball, only to have it squirt by him and into right field. Rosario pulled into second with an unconventional two-run double for a 4-2 lead.
It was the break on offense the Twins needed while their pitchers kept them in the game — the Astros, the majors' top-scoring team, stranded 11 runners.
"The ball has got to bounce your way once in a while," Molitor said. "It's a part of the game that's overlooked. The breaks that you get."