MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Thanks to another strong outing from Kevin Correia, the Minnesota Twins are ahead of where they were at this point last season.
Correia pitched eight sharp innings, Justin Morneau homered and the Twins beat Texas 5-0 Sunday, handing the Rangers consecutive losses for the first time this year.
It took the Twins 37 games to reach 11 wins last season. After Correia’s big day, they’re 11-10.
“That’s our goal, to surprise some people and make a push in this division,” said Correia, who allowed six hits and only one runner to reach third base while lowering his ERA to 2.23. “Right now, being above .500 is a good sign, but we got a long ways to go.”
Mitch Moreland and Lenoys Martin each had two hits for the Rangers.
“He just put the ball where he wanted. Cutter, changeup, sinker,” said A.J. Pierzynski, who caught Correia when the right-hander was in San Francisco. “He’s kind of shortened his slider and throws more cutters and changeups now. Good for him. He’s really turned into a good big league pitcher.”
Correia (3-1) has pitched at least seven innings in each of his first five starts for the Twins after going seven or more only three times all of last season.
The soft-tossing veteran signed a two-year, $10 million contract with Minnesota in the offseason and has been the Twins best starter. Using a fastball that rarely broke 90 mph and a variety of offspeed pitches, Correia retired the first seven batters and set down 11 of the last 12.
“Getting balls hit to people right now,” Correia said. “Right now it’s just going my way.”
Alexi Ogando (2-2) allowed three runs on four hits over six innings.
Ogando looked just as sharp as Correia before walking Josh Willingham in the sixth. On the very next pitch, Ogando hung a slider and Morneau lined it into the right-field bleachers for his second home run, giving the Twins a 3-0 lead.
“He had been throwing him breaking balls all day, but he wasn’t throwing it for strikes,” Washington said. “He tried to get one over for a strike. Morneau was sitting on it.”
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was ejected in the seventh after arguing with third base umpire Alfonso Marquez about a force play on a bunt.
Gardenhire kicked the dirt around home plate and angrily took off his sunglasses as he walked off the field to a standing ovation from the Target Field crowd.
The manager was in a happier mood after the game, thanks to Correia and the fact that Twins pitchers have allowed just two runs in the last 18 innings.
“We went out and made some good signings,” he said. “Hopefully for guys that throw the ball over the plate, give us a chance to stay in the ballgame, get deep in the game. For the most part, they’ve been doing that.”
The fans remained fired up after Jamey Carroll lined a single up the middle that scored Aaron Hicks and made it 4-0 immediately after the ejection.
Brian Dozier followed with another RBI single off Joe Ortiz, one of three relievers Texas used in the inning.
Casey Fien pitched the ninth after Correia was removed after throwing 102 pitches, 65 for strikes.
NOTES: It was Gardenhire’s first ejection this season and the second time he’s been tossed by Marquez in his career. … Correia has one career shutout, against the Reds on April 18, 2011, when he pitched for the Pirates. … At 49-25, the Rangers have the best April record in baseball since 2011. … Five of Ogando’s six starts this season have come on the road. … Twins star Joe Mauer was 0 for 15 in the series, dropping his average from .366 to .302. … The Twins start a 10-game road trip at Detroit on Monday with Mike Pelfrey on the mound. Despite getting 8.47 runs of support per nine innings, Pelfrey is just 2-2 with a 7.94 ERA. … The Rangers are off Monday and host the White Sox on Tuesday. Yu Darvish is scheduled to start the series opener.
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