Break doesn't cool scorching Twins
Bats open up four-run seventh; Perkins shuts down Rangers
MINNEAPOLIS -- During a stretch in which they won 21 of 28 games heading into the All-Star break, the Twins credited their young starting pitching for much of the success.Perhaps that's why it's no surprise that it was the pitching that once again sparked Minnesota following its four-day layoff. Even some time off couldn't stop the surging Twins, who continued their recent hot streak on Friday night by kicking off the second half with a 6-0 victory over the Rangers at the Metrodome. A victory which came thanks, in large part, to the efforts of their pitchers -- particularly the performance of rookie starter Glen Perkins. The left-hander tossed six scoreless innings and relievers Craig Breslow, Jesse Crain and Boof Bonser each pitched a scoreless inning, as the Twins handed the Rangers their first shutout of the season. The last time that the hot-hitting Texas lineup had been held scoreless, it had also come against Minnesota on Aug. 19, 2007, when former Twins ace Johan Santana struck out a franchise record 17 batters -- a span of 135 games. "To shut out a team like the Rangers -- they run a lot of good hitters up there -- you did something," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. Perkins managed to deliver that type of performance on a night when he didn't feel like he had his best stuff working. In an outing that pitching coach Rick Anderson called "effectively wild," Perkins held the Rangers to just three hits. He walked three and struck out one. "He made pitches when he had to," Anderson said. "He kept coming at them, and the hardest thing to do as a pitcher when you're scuffling with command is to keep your mind-set and keep going at them. And he did that tonight." Perkins (7-2) relied primarily on his fastball late in the outing, and it forced him to find a bit of trouble in the sixth. The lefty ran up his pitch count in his final inning, issuing two walks before getting Marlon Byrd to ground into a fielder's choice for the final out of the sixth. The Rangers, who lead the Majors in runs scored with 538, managed very little offense and had few chances to score against Perkins. "We got three-hit," Byrd said after the loss. "That's uncalled for with this team." Friday marked the first time that Perkins, who spent parts of the last two seasons in the Twins bullpen, had mixed a slider into his repertoire. The lefty said he began working with the pitch last Sunday and didn't spend much time on it over the All-Star break. But he tinkered with it again on Thursday and felt comfortable to use it in a few key situations on Friday. "We're just trying to get something that's going away from lefties a little more than the 12-to-6," Perkins said. "I got a couple outs with it. It's something to build on and maybe a good pitch for me as I go along." With Perkins shutting down the Rangers' offense, the Twins were able to slowly nick away at starter Kevin Millwood. The right-hander entered the game with an 0-5 record and a 5.86 ERA in nine career starts against the Twins. Yet again, he would be unable to earn a victory, giving up five runs on 11 hits over his 6 1/3 innings to pick up another loss. "We didn't exactly kill the ball off him; we had to flip 'em," Gardenhire said. "And he made us work for it." Brian Buscher got the Twins their first lead of the game in the fourth by delivering a single into right field. Minnesota added one more run in sixth on Brendan Harris' two-out single to center. Holding just a 2-0 lead, the Twins finally got to Millwood (6-6) in the seventh, loading the bases with one out in the inning. Right-hander Jamey Wright came in and gave up three straight hits to allow four more runs. One of those was an infield RBI single to left fielder Delmon Young. It was one of four hits that the left fielder recorded on the day, tying his career high, which he accomplished just one time before, on Aug. 31, 2006, against the Chicago White Sox. Still, the offensive output wasn't necessarily the prettiest display Minnesota had delivered this season. Three of Young's four hits were to the right side of the field. Kubel's big hit of the night was a two-run jammed shot. And Buscher even flipped one into left field. But that's the type of play Gardenhire has come to expect from his club. "We chop balls, bloop balls, but that's part of our game, too," Gardenhire said before Friday's game. "Put it in play and run like hell." A sentiment that Young himself echoed. "We're not a team that's going to hit the long ball," Young said. "We've got two guys that are going to go out and hit the long ball on a consistent basis. For the rest of us guys, it's hit the ball hard, and if they find a hole or find a gap, we run."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.