HOUSTON -- After a soft comebacker ricocheted off the glove of Astros reliever Tony Sipp, Eddie Rosario stretched what would have been a routine double play into a double and secured the Twins' 4-2 win on Saturday at Minute Maid Park.
Much earlier in the evening, Twins second baseman James Dozier clubbed his second leadoff home run in as many days, helping the Twins end their three-game losing streak while at the same time earning their first win against the 61-win Astros this season. Prior to Saturday, Minnesota had lost seven in a row to the Astros, dating back to Aug. 9, 2016.
Minnesota's All-Star starting pitcher, Ervin Santana, picked up his 11th win of the season, which is tied for the second most in the American League with Boston's Chris Sale. Santana was charged with both Astros runs in six innings of work, all the while keeping Houston from recording its sixth double-digit scoring night in eight games.
"The pitcher is trying to [get] us out," said Astros utility man Marwin Gonzalez. "We're not facing a pitching machine, you know? He did good today. He threw a good game. And he's one of the best pitchers in the league.
"It was just one of those games. We're not going to score 10 runs every game."
However, the Astros have outscored the Twins, 52-25, in five games this season, including runs scored on second baseman Jose Altuve's solo home run in the third inning and Yuli Gurriel's RBI double in the second. The Astros held a 2-1 lead until the Twins tied it in the fifth and scored that pair off the miscue in the sixth.
"The first four chapters of the Houston book weren't particularly good reading, but it got a little better today, and hopefully we can solve the puzzle offensively," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "We have a chance to get two out of three."
Houston, though, had its own chances. The Astros finished 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left 11 men on base for the second consecutive game. Houston left the bases loaded in three innings.
"We worked really hard to get into those situations, just didn't come through with the hit," said Astros manager A.J. Hinch. "Credit to them, we obviously had our opportunities. We had every chance to break things open a little, or at least make things a little bit closer, but they won the big at-bats."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Ricochet renders two runs: In the sixth, for the second inning in a row, Astros starter Joe Musgrove loaded the bases with two singles and a walk with no outs, and he was replaced by Sipp. On Sipp's third pitch, Rosario bounced a two-run double -- which had a 19 percent hit probability, according to Statcast™ -- off Sipp's glove; the ricocheting ball scooted past Altuve at second and rolled into right field to put the Twins ahead, 4-2. Sipp would strike out Jorge Polanco and Jason Castro before Houston intentionally walked Dozier to load the bases once again. Six pitches later, Sipp ended the inning with Zack Granite's groundout to second base.
"The ball has to bounce your way once in a while," Molitor said. "[Rosario] tried to stay on that slider from Sipp. If he doesn't deflect it, it's probably a double-play ball."
Santana finds, escapes trouble: Santana did what many pitchers fear 90 games into this season: load the bases for power hitter George Springer (26 HRs in 2017). On the first pitch of the at-bat, Springer swung for a grand slam, but whacked Santana's 87.5-mph pitch at a 59-degree launch angle, according to Statcast™, and popped out to short right field to end the second-inning threat.
"It's a tough game," Hinch said. "When things don't go your way, there are a lot of what-ifs, a lot of could-[haves], there's a lot of nonsense. You have to try to win the at-bats, and we did, just came up short." More >
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With Gurriel's double in the second inning, the Astros notched their franchise-record 48th straight game with a double. The streak is the third longest in MLB history, trailing the 1996 Indians' 75-game streak and a 51-game stretch by the 1999 Braves.
DOZIER DOES IT AGAIN
On Friday night, Dozier planted Charlie Morton's second pitch in Minute Maid Park's Crawford Boxes for his 21st career leadoff homer, setting a Twins franchise record. Dozier needed only Musgrove's first pitch to knock No. 22, also to left field. It's the second time in his career Dozier has hit leadoff homers in consecutive games.
"They come in bunches," Molitor said. "We all know that he can get hot. It will be great to see him where he gets in a better groove offensively that provides a spark."
Twins: Right-hander Kyle Gibson gets the start in the finale of a three-game series at Minute Maid Park on Sunday at 1:10 p.m. CT. In his only start at the venue, on Aug. 13, 2014, Gibson earned a win, allowing one run over 7 2/3 innings.
Astros: Right-hander Mike Fiers will make his 18th start of the season on Sunday and ninth at home. He allowed a home run in his previous start, at Toronto, snapping a seven-game homerless streak after serving up a MLB-high 18 in his first nine starts.
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