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Cole brings the heat, freezes Twins' bats

Altuve, Bregman end slumps; Marisnick has eventful night
@brianmctaggart
April 30, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS -- The cold weather brought out the best in the Astros, who turned in one of their most complete wins of the season Tuesday night at chilly Target Field. Astros starter Gerrit Cole dominated the Twins by striking out 11 batters and allowing one hit in seven masterful innings,

MINNEAPOLIS -- The cold weather brought out the best in the Astros, who turned in one of their most complete wins of the season Tuesday night at chilly Target Field.

Astros starter Gerrit Cole dominated the Twins by striking out 11 batters and allowing one hit in seven masterful innings, and George Springer, Jake Marisnick and Alex Bregman blasted homers to send the Astros to an 11-0 win.

Astros manager AJ Hinch notched his 392nd victory while with Houston, which tied him with Art Howe for third most in team history. Howe was Hinch’s first manager when he broke into the big leagues with Oakland.

Here are three key storylines:

It was a Cole night
Cole’s night started ominously when he walked the first two batters he faced while struggling with his breaking ball command and the chilly temperatures. His fortunes turned when Nelson Cruz's scorching grounder, which had an exit velocity of 115.2 mph, was snagged by shortstop Carlos Correa to start a 6-4-3 double play. That began a stretch where Cole set down 13 in a row.

“It was a little bit different of an environment than I had pitched in in a while, and I was just struggling a little bit to command the breaking ball in the zone,” Cole said. “Carlos made a great play and picked me up. … That was as pivotal as a play that can be made on our side, and that was pretty much the game.”

Cole, who struck out the side in the third and the first two batters he faced in the fourth, didn’t allow a hit until Max Kepler’s one-out double to right field in the sixth. He followed by striking out four of the final five hitters he faced and finished with 104 pitches.

“I just tried to fill up the zone in the second and tried to find where the middle of the zone was, and then just got better command of offspeed, and I was able to just attack the zone better,” said Cole, who now has a strikeout in every current Major League park.

Altuve, Bregman break slumps
José Altuve broke a season-long 0-for-10 slump by following a leadoff homer in the fifth by Springer with a double to left field. He scored on a sacrifice fly by Correa to make it a 3-0 game and left the game after six innings for rest. The hit was only Altuve’s fourth in his past 36 at-bats.

“When I saw the ball go down the line and all the way to the left-field wall, I breathed,” Altuve said. “I said, ‘OK, now maybe this is it, and I can start helping the team the way I should.’”

Meanwhile, Bregman snapped an 0-for-14 funk by hitting a solo homer to left field in sixth -- his fifth of the season and first since April 21 at Texas. Bregman drew a ninth-inning walk to tie Hall of Famer Joe Morgan’s club record of 11 consecutive games with an unintentional walk.

“It felt good,” Bregman said of the homer. “The [flyout] to center field the first at-bat really felt the best. That was a good swing. It was a great team win today.”

Jake’s day
Talk about an interesting night in the No. 9 hole for center fielder Jake Marisnick. He was hit in the stomach by a pitch in the third inning and subsequently scored the Astros’ first run on Springer’s double. Marisnick struck out swinging with the bases loaded to end the fourth, but then he belted a two-run homer in the sixth on an 0-2 pitch to put Houston ahead, 5-0.

Marisnick then made a spectacular diving catch in center field in the ninth inning to rob C.J. Cron of a hit.

“Only Jake can get hit in the stomach while he’s trying to bunt,” Hinch said. “He finds a unique way to contribute and obviously plays great defense with a diving catch in the ninth. He hits the ball out of the ballpark to finish [Twins starter Michael] Pineda’s night. That kind of contribution will get you in the lineup tomorrow.”

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.