MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A day after winning the series opener against Houston while getting just three hits, the Minnesota Twins’ bats were quiet again.
This time, it came in a losing effort.
Mike Fiers followed his no-hitter with another stellar start for Houston, pitching into the seventh inning with three hits allowed for the first-place Astros in a 4-1 victory over the Twins on Saturday night.
Minnesota finished the game with just five hits and failed to come up with big hits in clutch situations, going 1 for 14 with runners in scoring position and leaving seven men on base.
“Offensively, we only had a few chances,” said Minnesota manager Paul Molitor. “The leadoff doubles were wasted. We had the bases loaded situation where we couldn’t get a bit hit to get back in the game. Fiers was good. He didn’t give up many hits.”
The Twins’ offense tried to play catch-up after starter Mike Pelfrey allowed four runs in just 3 2/3 innings. Minnesota’s best chance to get back into the game came in the bottom of the fourth inning with the bases loaded and nobody out. Trevor Plouffe grounded into a double play that scored Eduardo Escobar for the Twins’ only run. Eddie Rosario then popped out to second base to end Minnesota’s threat.
The Twins had the leadoff batter reach base in five of the nine innings but failed to capitalize on all but one of those opportunities.
“We just couldn’t get anything going,” said Twins first baseman Joe Mauer, who had two hits. “The way he’s throwing the ball, if we could have maybe gotten a couple early that would have maybe helped. But he threw another great game. It was a tough night.”
Brian Dozier had leadoff doubles to start the sixth and eighth innings but was stranded on third both times. The Twins struck out 10 times in the loss.
Fiers plunked Plouffe with a pitch to start the seventh, after Plouffe reached the second deck with a fly ball that hooked foul. Rosario hit a single past the mound that Fiers, who fielded grounders for assists on three of the first seven outs, couldn’t quite stop with his bare hand.
That was enough for manager A.J. Hinch, who made clear before the game that Fiers would not come close to the 134 pitches he threw Aug. 21 to no-hit the Los Angeles Dodgers. With the Astros using a six-man rotation, Fiers had three extra days to rest for this.
The Twins were held to three hits Friday by Scott Kazmir, too, but they scratched out three runs for a 3-0 victory behind a strong start by Kyle Gibson and a sturdy finish by the bullpen.
The Twins lost for only the second time in their last nine games, but the defeat assured them of another month without a winning record. Their 20-7 mark in May is the only one of five this year above .500, yet they’re still right in the American League wild card race, 1 1/2 games behind Texas for the second spot.
The Rangers stayed four games behind the Astros in the AL West.
Evan Gattis tried to get a double on his grounder down the third-base line in the third, but Rosario threw him out at second to end the inning, the left fielder’s 13th assist this season, leading all rookies in the majors. Hinch challenged, but a review of nearly three minutes upheld the ruling.
Astros: Rookie SS Carlos Correa was held out with a strained hamstring for the third straight game, despite his belief he was healed enough to play. Hinch was noncommittal about Sunday. “It’s a pretty simple decision. If there’s sensitivity in there and he’s showing any signs of discomfort, it’s a no. No different than parenting,” Hinch said.
Twins: Sano was back in the lineup after missing Friday because of a hamstring strain.
Astros: Lance McCullers (5-4, 3.12 ERA) pitches in the series finale Sunday. The 21-year-old McCullers was sharp in his previous turn, with eight strikeouts and two runs allowed in seven innings in his first start since being called back from the minors.
Twins: Ervin Santana (2-4, 6.05 ERA) takes the mound, trying to escape a concerning slump. He’s 0-4 in his last six turns, with an average of just over five innings finished and 33 runs allowed.
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