Rosario, Twins win white-knuckle affair over Astros
HOUSTON -- For the second time in six days, Ervin Santana beat Lance McCullers and the Houston Astros.
Santana pitched eight strong innings and Eddie Rosario hit a tiebreaking two-run triple in the ninth inning to help the Minnesota Twins hold on for a 3-2 victory over the Astros on Saturday night.
Santana (4-4) gave up just one run and six hits, walking two and striking out a season-high 11.
"Everything was working pretty good," Santana said. "I was working down in the zone and mixing all of my pitches."
After Santana's rocky August, his manager is delighted by the pitcher's recent form as the Twins make a push for the playoffs.
"We're hungry for good starts and the more we get from here on out the better our chances are going to be," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "He's put a couple back-to-back for us."
Santana made his season debut in July after serving an 80-game suspension for a positive steroid test.
"Missing the first half of the season we're hoping for a fresh arm here on out and the last two starts have been really solid," Molitor said.
Sanatana was also pleased with the way he's been pitching.
"It means a lot. It means that I'm trying to get on track and that's the type of performance I will need," he said. "Just trying to keep working hard and keep finding the zone."
Santana again outpitched the Astros' Lance McCullers after pitching seven shutout innings in the Twins' 7-5 victory last Sunday.
"Two times in a row he's really been tough on us," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said.
"We had a tough time with the secondary pitches. He spotted his fastball enough, we chased enough to give some strikes away but McCullers matched him pitch for pitch today," Hinch said. "Generally you think it might favor the hitter a second time when you see him twice within a week. But Santana made excellent pitches when he needed to and never really gave us much to hit."
The Astros took the lead in the fifth inning as Marwin Gonzalez singled with one out and scored on Preston Tucker's double.
McCullers gave up a run and three hits with two walks and eight strikeouts in seven innings. He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before Byron Buxton opened the inning with a double. Buxton moved to third on an infield single and tied the score at 1-1 on a double-play grounder by Brian Dozier.
With the score tied 1-1, Dozier singled off Houston closer Luke Gregerson (7-3) to open the ninth, and moved to second on Joe Mauer's grounder. Trevor Plouffe was hit by a pitch with two outs, and Eddie Rosario followed with a triple to right field that a diving George Springer got a glove on but couldn't hold.
Kevin Jepsen gave up a leadoff homer to Jed Lowrie in the bottom of the ninth but finished up for his 11th save, though the Twins needed Buxton to make a sharp catch to end the game, denying Jose Altuve a hit with the bases loaded.
"They were playing shallow and Buxton made a pretty good play. You can't hit a ball better than that, especially in that situation," McCullers said.
The Astros announced that Gene Elston, a longtime radio and television broadcaster who voiced the team's inaugural season in 1962 -- when they were the Colt .45s -- has died aged 93. A moment of silence was held during the game.
Twins closer Glen Perkins is still dealing with back spasms and has not shown any significant improvement.
Twins youngster Tyler Duffey (2-1, 4.56 ERA) goes Sunday in the final game of the three-game series. The Houston-born Rice University product gave up three runs in 4 2/3 innings in an 8-6 win over the Chicago White Sox on Sept. 1.
Astros lefty Dallas Keuchel (16-6, 2.24 ERA) makes his 28th start of the season.