CINCINNATI (AP) — Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was looking for a good, low-pressure spot to get closer Matt Capps back on the mound. He found it during a lopsided game on Saturday.
Capps gave up an unearned run in the eighth inning of Minnesota’s 6-0 loss to Johnny Cueto and the Cincinnati Reds. Capps hadn’t pitched since June 15 because of a sore shoulder that has been slowly improving.
With the Twins down by five runs in the eighth, Gardenhire got him into the game.
“Still feeling it a little bit in there, but for the most part, I’m pretty happy with the way I threw the ball,” Capps said. “Better than I expected. The delivery was a little rusty maybe, but all in all, I’m pretty pleased with that.”
He gave up an unearned run on a double, a walk and third baseman Trevor Plouffe’s error, throwing 23 pitches. Capps was curious how the shoulder would react in a game, and came away encouraged.
“I think that’s the biggest thing always when you’re a little beat up, banged up — how is it going to feel first time in the game?” Capps said. “You can throw as many bullpens (sessions) and as many times on the side as you want, but you can’t simulate that game environment.”
The Twins couldn’t do anything against Cueto, who remained unbeaten in June by pitching seven innings and driving in a pair of runs with a squeeze bunt and a bases-loaded groundout. The Reds ended their season-high losing streak at four games.
Cueto (9-3) allowed three hits and fanned a season-high nine while improving to 4-0 in four June starts. The right-hander has allowed only five runs for a 1.47 ERA on the month. Two relievers finished a combined three-hitter.
Brandon Phillips hit a two-run homer off left-hander Brian Duensing (1-3), an injury fill-in for the rotation. Scott Rolen had two more hits and scored on Cueto’s squeeze bunt and groundout.
The Reds welcomed first basemen Dan Driessen and Sean Casey to their Hall of Fame before the game, with other former Reds stars joining them on the field. Gardenhire watched the ceremony from the dugout, then chatted with former Reds shortstop Dave Concepcion, who was his favorite player when he was growing up.
Phillips got the Reds started with — what else? — a home run. His two-run shot in the fourth off Duensing made it 61 consecutive games with at least one homer at Great American Ball Park, the longest active streak in the majors. It was the 96th homer allowed by the Twins, most in the majors.
Duensing made his first start since Sept. 24. He will get a chance to stay in the rotation for a while. The left-hander had no problems in the first three innings, then faded in the fourth inning.
“Once I got to the fourth, I was in territory where I hadn’t gone yet,” Duensing said. “I hadn’t thrown that many pitches before. It was kind of uncharted territory, and I hit a wall. The ball was getting left up. It wasn’t sinking.”
After Phillips hit his 10th homer off the batter’s eye, Jay Bruce singled and came around on Rolen’s double to right. Rolen continued to third on the play, which ended Duensing’s outing at 63 pitches.
Rolen scored on Cueto’s squeeze bunt to reliever Anthony Swarzak, who could have gotten Rolen in a rundown but never looked at him. Instead, he threw to first for the out as Rolen scored for a 4-0 lead.
“If he checks Rolen, I think we put ourselves in a little bit of a situation there at third base,” Gardenhire said.
The third baseman and pitcher got another run across in the sixth, when the Reds loaded the bases on Rolen’s single, Scott Frazier’s double and an intentional walk to catcher Ryan Hanigan with one out. Swinging away this time, Cueto grounded out to drive in Rolen.
The 37-year-old third baseman missed 34 games with a sore left shoulder. In five games since his return, Rolen has gone 7 for 18 with three multihit games.
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