MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — For Pedro Hernandez, a big grin said it all.
The left-hander pitched five shutout innings for his first major league win, Josh Willingham homered and the Minnesota Twins beat the Texas Rangers 7-2 Saturday to end a three-game slide.
“I don’t know what to say right now, this is a beautiful experience, it’s a beautiful emotion for me. I’m just so happy,” Hernandez said.
Aaron Hicks got his first major league extra-base hit and made two big defensive plays. Anthony Swarzak, Brian Duensing and Jared Burton each work a scoreless inning of relief as Minnesota handed Texas its first loss in four games.
“Everybody’s got to be a part of these things,” said manager Ron Gardenhire.
Glen Perkins gave up a two-run double to Mitch Moreland that Hicks lost in the sun.
With so many weather postponements reducing the need for a fifth starter, Hernandez (1-0) was making just his second start — and fourth appearance — for the Twins. His first start was April 7.
In five innings, he allowed just five hits and struck out three. After getting into a third-inning jam, Hernandez retired eight of the final nine hitters he faced.
“Hernandez was fantastic,” Gardenhire said. “We got exactly what we wanted out of him; a nice performance by him, and then we kind of ad-libbed it there until the end.”
A ground-rule double by Ian Kinsler gave the Rangers runners on second and third with one out in the third inning, but Craig Gentry lined out to the shortstop and Adrian Beltre flew out to left field to end the threat.
“He threw a lot of off-speed stuff. He threw a lot of pitches that were hittable. We got hits, but we didn’t swing the bat the way we’re capable of,” said Texas manager Ron Washington. “Gotta give him credit, he kept us off-balance. He went five innings and shut us out.”
Minnesota scored the first run in the bottom half of the third when Hicks — who reached on an error by Moreland — scored on Brian Dozier’s sacrifice fly.
Willingham hit his towering two-run homer in the sixth to make it 3-0.
“I knew there was a base open and in the back of my mind I might get an off-speed pitch. He threw it where he didn’t want to,” Willingham said.
Hicks’ first career extra-base hit, a two-run double, keyed a three-run eighth inning, but it was his diving catch in left-center to rob A.J. Pierzynski in the fourth that appeared to make him happier.
“There was a split-second where I didn’t think I had it, but it hung up there a little bit longer for me,” he said. “I just made the play.”
Hicks, the Twins center fielder, also threw out Nelson Cruz trying to extend a single into a double in the second inning.
Texas starter Derek Holland was outstanding in his first three starts, lasting at least seven innings and allowing no more than two runs in each. But Monday in Anaheim, he allowed six earned runs on six hits while walking four in 5 2-3 innings. He felt as if he pitched well in that contest, but Los Angeles’ hitters forced him into deep counts and took advantage of the free passes.
This time, Holland (1-2) scattered five hits, and allowed four runs — three earned. He had four 1-2-3 innings, but he also threw two wild pitches.
“I thought I was in control. The main thing is just one pitch to Willingham. They got some runs, but that’s the way it is. I kept the damage down for the most part, continued to go out there and unfortunately I didn’t come out on top,” he said.
Joe Mauer, who started at first base for the first time this season in place of Justin Morneau, went hitless for the third straight game and is 2 for 21 in his past six games.
NOTES: When Hicks threw out Cruz, it marked the fourth straight game a Twins outfielder has an assist and fifth in seven games. … Gentry, the Texas center fielder, took a hit away from Eduardo Escobar in the sixth with a diving catch. … Escobar started at third base for the Twins replacing Trevor Plouffe, who had a pair of defensive miscues Friday night. … Texas 3B Jeff Baker returned to the lineup after being out since Tuesday with a bruised right knee. … Right-hander Alexi Ogando (2-1, 3.12) is scheduled to pitch for Texas in Sunday’s series finale against Minnesota right-hander Kevin Correia (2-1, 2.86).
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