MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Willians Astudillo has quickly become a fan favorite in Minnesota. Games like the one Astudillo had Thursday only help add to the reputation of the player affectionately known as “La Tortuga.”
Astudillo had a career-high four RBIs, Tyler Austin added three and the Twins beat the Detroit Tigers 9-3.
Astudillo, playing in his 26th big league game, capped Minnesota’s five-run third inning when his two-out single drove in a pair of runs to give the Twins the lead. He also added a two-run double in the fifth.
“I’m just trying to go out there and try to swing at good pitches and it’s working out for me so far,” Astudillo said through a translator. “Just swinging at good pitches, and thankfully I’m executing.”
Minnesota took two of three against Detroit in the final series between the teams this year. The Twins won the season series 12-7.
Tigers starter Francisco Liriano (5-12) left after just 2 1/3 innings due to lower back tightness. The former Twin exited with the bases loaded and wound up being charged with four runs.
“He was having a hard time breathing out there,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He was trying not to land hard on his front foot, every time he landed hard on his front foot, he felt shooting pain. Just got to get him out of the game.”
It was Liriano’s shortest start since the last time he faced the Twins back on Aug. 16, when he went just 1 2/3 innings.
“This is not the way you want to finish the year, especially when you’re going to be a free agent,” Liriano said. “Very disappointed. I tried to pitch through it, but it didn’t get better, it was getting worse.”
Austin tied the game in the third with a double that scored Joe Mauer and Logan Forsythe. He also plated Forsythe in the fifth inning with a ground-rule double.
Astudillo has put together some impressive numbers since debuting with Minnesota in late June. Including Thursday’s two-hit, four-RBI game, Astudillo is now batting .357 with 19 RBIs. In the last two weeks, Astudillo is hitting .415 (22 for 53) and has 15 RBIs in that span.
With a roster very much in question heading into the offseason, Astudillo is doing what he can to make a case for a roster spot in 2019.
“It’s important, these guys that are trying to get at least somewhat established,” said Twins manager Paul Molitor. “It takes longer than a month to get yourself on the map, but you can make an impression.”
The versatile Astudillo also struck out on a check swing in the second inning, just the third time on what was his 83rd plate appearance that he’s struck out with the Twins.
“He doesn’t get to two strikes all that often,” Molitor said. “I was surprised to see a couple three-ball counts today. Liriano’s slider got him.”
The Tigers threatened in the fifth with the bases loaded and one out. Minnesota reliever Matt Magill recorded two big outs to end the inning. Magill struck out Grayson Greiner looking before getting JaCoby Jones to go down swinging for the third out.
Minnesota once again employed the opening pitcher strategy, with Gabriel Moya tossing just the first inning. The lefty gave up the game’s first run on a sacrifice fly by Nicholas Castellanos.
Stephen Gonsalves (2-2) took over for Moya in the second and pitched 3 1/3 innings. Gonsalves was tagged for a pair of runs on three hits and four walks but earned his second career win.
Twins: Molitor didn’t sound optimistic that 3B Miguel Sano (leg) would return in the team’s final few games this season. “Each day it’s looking less and less,” Molitor said. “He’s not really changing how he’s feeling, and I’m certainly not going to be someone to push him out there if he’s not comfortable playing.” Sano last played on Sept. 18.
Tigers: RHP Jordan Zimmermann starts Friday’s game against the Brewers at Miller Park. He’s winless in his last three outings.
Twins: RHP Jose Berrios (11-11, 3.93 ERA) starts the first game of a doubleheader Friday against the White Sox. Berrios is looking for his first win since Aug. 4.
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