MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Phil Hughes has been a better pitcher this season, freed from homer-friendly Yankee Stadium in his first season with the Minnesota Twins.
Hughes looked the way he did in his New York days on Friday night against the Houston Astros in his first turn after beating his former team.
Minnesota’s free-agent addition allowed three home runs in his new home ballpark, spacious Target Field, as the free-swinging Astros topped the Twins 5-4.
Rookie power source George Springer hit his 11th homer to break the game open in the sixth inning, and Houston got early solo home runs from Marwin Gonzalez and Matt Dominguez to snap Hughes’ six-game winning streak.
“I didn’t have my best fastball tonight and just wasn’t making adjustments the way I had before,” Hughes said. “I didn’t recognize it, really, early enough to make some better pitches with the two-seamer or cutter, and kept trying to generate extra velocity and came out of my mechanics just a little bit and left some balls over the plate. You can live with the two solo homers through five, and then the sixth inning obviously we kind of give the game away right there, so that was tough.”
Hughes (6-2) gave up a season-high five runs on six hits while striking out seven.
Danny Santana hit his first career home run, a two-run shot in the seventh inning off reliever Tony Sipp as the Twins tried to rally late.
After the start was delayed 1 hour, 21 minutes, by a storm that never arrived, Dallas Keuchel (7-3) limited Minnesota to five hits over six scoreless innings and struck out six.
Chad Qualls pitched around a two-out throwing error by Dominguez in the ninth to earn his seventh save in eight chances.
“Another night where we gave up three home runs and that’s pretty much the ballgame offensively for them,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said, noting Milwaukee’s three homers in beating Minnesota on Thursday night.
Hughes was coming off a satisfying return to Yankee Stadium on Sunday when he beat his former club with eight strong innings. Away from the short right porch in the Bronx, Hughes has kept the ball in the yard with the Twins this season and entered Friday having allowed just two homers in his previous 64 1-3 innings.
This was the same Hughes who had served up 59 home runs in his final two seasons with New York, tied for third-most in the majors during that span.
But he was bitten by the long ball Friday against the young, aggressive Astros.
Springer struck out in each of his first two at-bats against Hughes before reaching low and outside to drive a pitch an estimated 402 feet into the opposite-field stands.
“I don’t think he had his best stuff tonight, and for sure some of those swings they put on the ball, the opposite-field home run was a bomb,” Gardenhire said. “That’s a strong young man to be able to drive that ball that far opposite field. (Hughes) missed a little bit. He’s been so good for us, anything he gets up is kind of a, ‘What happened?’ type of thing right now.”
It was the first time Hughes allowed multiple homers since his first start of the season April 3. Coming into the game, he had yielded only four home runs all season and just one in his last 48 innings.
“Major league hitters are going to hit mistakes, and I didn’t get away with a lot of mistakes that I threw in there tonight,” Hughes said.
Eduardo Escobar had three hits and an RBI double that made it 5-4 with two outs in the eighth. Oswaldo Arcia, who homered in his previous two games but didn’t start because of a sprained ankle, pinch-hit and flied out on the first pitch from lefty Darin Downs.
The Twins could have tied the game in the eighth if not for Dexter Fowler’s spectacular, diving catch that robbed Trevor Plouffe of extra bases leading off the inning.
NOTES: About 10 minutes before the first pitch, the Target Field grounds crew rolled out the infield tarp in anticipation of a storm that was approaching the area. It never rained during the delay, but light rain did fall in the early innings. … Leroy “Bud” Miller, a World War II veteran who was part of the attack on Normandy Beach 70 years ago, raised the American flag before the game. … Injured Astros SS Jonathan Villar missed his third straight game after getting hit in the right elbow Tuesday. … Plouffe hit his 22nd double in the fourth inning, tying a career high. … Minnesota has drafted eight college pitchers in the first 10 rounds of the MLB draft.
(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)