Pineda looks good again, Twins beat Rangers 7-4

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Patience with Michael Pineda during a lengthy rehab is paying off for the Minnesota Twins.

Pineda struck out a season-high nine over six efficient innings, Jason Castro had two hits and three RBIs, and Minnesota beat the Texas Rangers 7-4 on Saturday.

Pineda (6-4) gave up five hits and a run on a solo homer in the sixth inning by Elvis Andrus. The big right-hander had his most strikeouts since 2017 with the New York Yankees prior to a Tommy John surgery that sidelined him for all of 2018.

“He missed a significant amount of time, but he’s been able to come back and find himself and … do it in different ways,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He’s not the exact same pitcher that he was five years ago. He’s a different pitcher. But he’s an equally as good pitcher.”

Marwin Gonzalez homered for the Twins, who lead the majors with 166 home runs this year and matched their total from last season. Gonzalez is the 10th Minnesota player to reach double digits in homers, one shy of a club record set in 2016.

Taylor Rogers picked up his 12th save with 2 1/3 scoreless innings and five strikeouts.

Jesse Chavez (3-4) surrendered five runs — four earned — on five hits and two walks over five innings for Texas, which has lost six of seven.

“I think that something that we were doing, especially in June, was setting the tone of the game early,” Andrus said. “Scoring a lot of runs early. Right now, it’s not happening. I think we need to get back on that.”

The Twins signed Pineda to a two-year contract in free agency last year, knowing the first year of the deal would mostly be spent in rehab. He was pitching in rehab games last season before being shut down with a knee injury.

Coming back this season, the 30-year-old struggled to a 6.21 ERA in six starts through the end of April but started to show steady progress. He’s allowed one run in four of his last five starts with a 2.83 ERA over that span.

“After you have surgery, it’s a long time for the recovery, so you have to work so hard to be a hundred percent and try to help your team,” Pineda said. “The last couple games I’ve pitched really good games and helped my team win the game, so I’m happy for that.”

Shin-Soo Choo had three hits and Willie Calhoun added a two-run homer for the Rangers, who have lost six of seven.

“When you fall behind in games, it does take you out of your game plan a little bit,” Texas manager Chris Woodward said. “I know we’re inching closer to the break. I’m not going to obviously use it as an excuse, but our guys have been grinding pretty hard, physically, mentally. So hopefully we can come out tomorrow, finish on a really solid note to end the first half.”

TOUGH START

Chavez was making his seventh start of the season and the third straight in a traditional starting role. He had been used as an opener four times before being taking on full starts. He had allowed three earned runs in 19 innings as a starter for a 1.42 ERA coming into the game.

ROSTER MOVES

Texas selected the contract of right-hander Pedro Payano before the game and Payano made his major league debut with a scoreless inning of work. Locke St. John was optioned to Triple-A Nashville and infielder Patrick Wisdom was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster.

Minnesota was forced to make moves after the game. Baldelli said outfielder LaMonte Wade Jr., who was called up earlier in the day with C.J. Cron going on the injured list, will also be placed on the injured list after he dislocated his right thumb when he crashed into the wall while pursuing Andrus’ home run. Jake Cave will be recalled from Triple-A Rochester.

The Twins also plan to option right-hander Kohl Stewart back to Triple-A to add another pitcher for Sunday’s game. Left-hander Devin Smeltzer, who made his major league debut earlier this season, will return to Minnesota.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rangers: All-Star LHP Mike Minor will have his final start before the break skipped Sunday in order to give him extra rest. Minor won’t pitch in the All-Star Game.

Twins: Cron was placed on the 10-day injured list with right thumb inflammation. Baldelli said Cron has been dealing with the injury but finally needed to give the thumb time to heal. The team hopes Cron will be ready to return after the 10 days are up.

UP NEXT

Rangers: With Minor being skipped, Texas plans to recall LHP Joe Palumbo from Triple-A Nashville. Palumbo has started two games for the Rangers this season with a 16.50 ERA. The team announced that reliever José Leclerc, who threw 30 pitches in Saturday’s game, would start and Palumbo will likely pitch in the game.

Twins: Minnesota is also skipping an All-Star pitcher. Jake Odorizzi was placed on the injured list earlier in the week with a blister issue. Due to the long break, Baldelli said Kyle Gibson (8-4, 4.13 ERA) would start but wouldn’t say how many innings the right-hander would pitch. Smeltzer likely will follow at some point.