MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Twins aren’t picky about how they get on base this season.
And if the most-walked team in the majors can get more starting pitching performances as they did Saturday, the Twins likely won’t mind their status as a middle-of-the-pack team when it comes to batting average.
Phil Hughes struck out six in seven innings, Josmil Pinto hit his fifth homer of the season and the Twins scored two runs in the fifth without a hit in their 5-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Saturday.
Minnesota looked to be in for a long afternoon after Detroit took an early 2-0 lead and Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez handled the Twins early.
But Sanchez left in the third with a blister on his middle finger on his throwing hand, forcing newly recalled Jose Ortega (0-1) into action.
Ortega, who had just arrived from Triple-A Toledo, and Phil Coke then combined to walk six Twins — five in the fifth.
A throwing error by catcher Bryan Holaday and a bases-loaded walk by Coke allowed Minnesota, hitless at that point, to tie the game.
Minnesota entered the game with a majors-leading 113 walks this season, and added eight more on Saturday.
“As we’ve talked about many times now, we’re taking our walks and getting people on, and you score runs like that,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “That’s a good way to go about your business.”
Especially with Hughes rolling.
Hughes (2-1) didn’t walk a batter, retired 16 straight at one point and has won two straight — a welcome sight for a Twins rotation that had produced only six quality starts this season.
Although he acknowledged the need for more innings from his starters, Gardenhire preached patience with his rotation earlier in the day, saying the team believes its starting pitchers will do well.
For one afternoon, at least, Hughes gave his manager a glimpse of that.
“Anytime your starter doesn’t give you innings, it’s up to the next guy to kind of bounce back and hopefully save the bullpen a little bit,” Hughes said a day after the Twins bullpen threw six-plus innings in Friday night’s loss.
Trevor Plouffe’s two-run single off Coke scored Eduardo Escobar and Brian Dozier put the Twins ahead for good in the fifth, and Pinto’s homer off Al Albuquerque in the eighth provided an insurance run.
“It was a tough spot for the entire bullpen,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “We were a little bit strapped going into today as it was. Sanchez’s injury straps us even more.”
Detroit took a first-inning lead after Sam Fuld couldn’t hang onto Miguel Cabrera’s fly to deep right, allowing Torii Hunter to score from first. Cabrera went to third on Fuld’s bad throw and scored on Victor Martinez’s sacrifice fly.
That was all the Tigers could muster against Hughes, though. The veteran right-hander made efficient work of Detroit’s lineup the next six innings. Jared Burton pitched a scoreless eighth and Glen Perkins pitched the ninth for his sixth save in seven chances.
“After the first I was coming apart a little bit, and not really staying within myself, overthrowing a little bit and coming out of my mechanics,” Hughes said. “But I was able to settle down pretty quick and get on a little bit of a roll, which was nice.”
Martinez led off the ninth with a homer.
Sanchez threw 53 pitches without allowing a hit and was in the middle of Dozier’s at-bat when Holaday, head trainer Kevin Rand and pitching coach Jeff Jones went to the mound. Shortly after being joined by Ausmus, Rand and Sanchez walked off the field.
“It looked nasty, it really did,” Ausmus said. “As soon as I went out there and saw it I was caught between throwing up and pulling him out of the game. It looked gross.”
Notes: Trevor Plouffe took a pitch off the arm in the fourth and later came out of the game. Gardenhire said he would be day to day. … The Tigers optioned RHP Justin Miller — who pitched two-thirds innings on Friday night and allowed a run and two hits — to Toledo to make room for Ortega. “It had nothing to do with how Justin pitched last night. He had pitched well the previous two outings, it was just we needed help for the bullpen,” Ausmus said. … Ausmus says he plans to put C Alex Avila (shin) back into the lineup Sunday. Avila was hurt sliding into home plate on Friday. Ausmus reiterated RHP Rick Porcello (elbow) should make his next scheduled start Wednesday. Porcello was hurt after a line drive deflected off his glove and hit his throwing elbow. … A day after his relievers threw 6 2-3 innings, Ron Gardenhire put starter Mike Pelfrey in the bullpen as “an emergency-type guy.” Asked about tweaking his starting rotation, Gardenhire said, “You’ve got to give them a little bit of time here. These guys are here for a reason, we think they’re going to be good and hopefully they’ll get rolling and we don’t have to have this conversation.” . The Tigers and Twins wrap up their three-game series on Sunday when Justin Verlander (3-1) takes the mound for Detroit. Minnesota righty Kyle Gibson (3-1) will make his start against the Tigers for the first time.
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