Anthony Swarzak didn’t find out he’d be starting this game until the night before. He pitched as if he didn’t want to leave, providing the sputtering Minnesota Twins with quite the pick-me-up.
Danny Valencia hit a bases-loaded single with one out in the bottom of the 10th inning, lifting the Twins to a 1-0 victory over Los Angeles on Saturday night after Swarzak held the Angels hitless one out into the eighth.
"I grabbed the ball, threw the ball down and hoped for the best. Maybe I should do that every time," Swarzak said.
Filling in for Francisco Liriano, Swarzak gave up a one-out double in the eighth to Peter Bourjos, the only hit of the game for the Angels. Liriano, who pitched a no-hitter on May 3, was scratched the day before because of shoulder soreness. Swarzak left after eight innings, walking two and striking out four.
Jered Weaver needed a season-high 128 pitches in nine innings, but he gave up only two hits and two walks while striking out seven.
"That’s what you call an old-fashioned pitchers duel, I guess," said Weaver, who went 6-0 in April and 0-4 in May. His ERA shrunk to 2.10. "Any loss is frustrating, but it’s a little frustrating to lose that way. But what are you going to do? You keep going."
The teams combined for only three hits until the decisive 10th, when Valencia lobbed a medium fly over Torii Hunter’s head in right field and got mobbed behind the mound in a celebratory pileup.
Weaver struck out pinch-hitter Jim Thome to start the final frame and finished it by fanning Alexi Casilla on a curveball. The long-haired, lanky right-hander surrendered a sharp second-inning single to Delmon Young.
In the 10th, Hisanori Takahashi (1-1) gave up a hard one-out single to Justin Morneau, Jason Repko entered as a pinch-runner and Kevin Jepsen came in and gave up consecutive singles to Michael Cuddyer and Young.
Left fielder Alexi Amarista came in as an extra man for the drawn-in infield, and Valencia hit one high and far enough to get Repko in and give the Twins something to cheer about.
Alex Burnett (1-3) picked up the victory with a scoreless 10th. Matt Capps pitched a hitless ninth.
Swarzak won his major league debut at age 23, a little more than two years to this date, by sprinkling five singles over seven shutout innings and impressing the Twins with his composure and confidence. He won his first three starts before stumbling and being sent back to Triple-A.
Last season, he never made it to Minnesota, breaking a bone in his right foot with the Rochester Red Wings and missing more than a month with the International League club. He finished 5-12 with a 6.21 ERA in 22 starts, but the right-hander was improved enough in spring training to warrant call-up when injuries beset the big league club.
After starting the second game of a doubleheader on April 28, he was sent down. But Swarzak was recalled from Triple-A Rochester on May 16.
"We really like him. We like his arm. He’s a gamer. He’s not afraid to do whatever you ask," manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Because his arm wasn’t stretched out, Gardenhire said before the game the plan was to keep Swarzak around 75 pitches. Six or seven innings, Gardenhire said, would be a bonus.
Swarzak gave them that and much more.
"I can promise you: If he had a no-hitter, he wasn’t coming out," the manager said.
Bobby Abreu hit a long fly to lead off the seventh that Cuddyer caught on the warning track and the next two outs were recorded deep in the outfield, but Swarzak didn’t sweat it.
"He seemed cool and relaxed," center fielder Denard Span said.
He got Russell Branyan on a groundout to start the eighth before the speedy Bourjos banged a line drive down the left-field line. Bourjos was barely to second base when activity began in the bullpen. The sellout crowd of 39,824 stood to cheer the effort, and Swarzak recovered to retire the next two batters.
Swarzak walked slowly off the mound and let out a sigh of relief.
NOTES: Gardenhire was ejected after the sixth inning for arguing a call when Span was picked off second base. The manager had a cortisone shot in his knee before Friday’s game and let pitching coach Rick Anderson make all the changes on the mound because he was too sore, but Gardenhire reached second base umpire Andy Fletcher in a hurry. "That wasn’t fun," Gardenhire said, acknowledging the pain. … This was only Weaver’s second no-decision of the season, but he hasn’t won in six starts. He has pitched at least six innings in 20 straight starts, dating to last August.