MINNEAPOLIS -- The fifth spot in the Twins rotation has been up in the air of late, and Minnesota manager Paul Molitor said before Thursday's game that the club will explore all options. In his second appearance of the season, Aaron Slegers made a convincing argument that the spot should remain his.
Slegers tossed six innings and held the Orioles to a single run as he and the Twins topped Baltimore, 5-2. The 25-year-old sinker-baller generated just nine swinging strikes all evening, but induced seven groundouts as he held the Orioles to three hits and picked up his first Major League win.
"It's nice," Slegers said. "It's fun to have that in the stat column, be a Major League winner. I can say that for the rest of my life."
Manny Machado smashed a two-out double off of Slegers in the first inning, but the Minnesota righty settled down from that point and didn't allow another hit until the fifth inning. He worked his way out of a mini-jam in the third after he plunked Trey Mancini to lead off the inning and later walked Adam Jones before getting Machado to ground out.
The lone Orioles run against him came by way of a Jonathan Schoop homer in the fifth inning that left the bat at 108.3 mph, per Statcast™. Slegers followed by getting behind in the count against Mancini and eventually yielding a single. But he bounced back to force Caleb Joseph to fly out to center and then rolled up a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.
"I was kind of battling back after the home run there," Slegers said. "Threw a couple of balls and I was disappointed with myself; I take pride after a home run, you know, get after the next guy, don't let it slip away. I was glad I got back in that count. Then I got Joseph on the pop-up. So I'm glad I pulled myself together after that homer."
The Twins offense came to life in the third inning when Jake Cave smashed a leadoff double to left-center field. Cave then scored when Bobby Wilson hit a grounder to the right side of the infield and Andrew Cashner was unable to catch a throw from Chris Davis while covering first. The ball dribbled toward the Twins' dugout, and Cave came around to score from second.
"I'm happy I could contribute to help Slegers get his first win," Cave said. "I played with Slegs a good amount this year down in Triple-A, and he came up here, you get off the plane and you've got to throw on the first day of the home series when we had a pretty bad road series. So it was big pressure for him, and I'm glad that I could just help contribute to a win."
Minnesota tacked on a second run in the inning when Eddie Rosario plated Wilson with a single to left. An inning later, Logan Morrison led off the fourth with a home run to make it a 3-0 Twins lead.
Baltimore cut into that lead in the seventh when Schoop battled his way through an eight-pitch at-bat before taking Minnesota reliever Addison Reed deep for his second homer of the game. In the eighth, the Orioles saw a chance to tie the game when Jones lined a two-out double off of Trevor Hildenberger. The Twins then elected to walk Machado intentionally, and Hildenberger escaped the jam when he got Davis to swing on a sinking 0-2 changeup to end the inning.
The Twins added a pair of insurance runs in the eighth when Max Kepler lined a single to right that scored Morrison. Kepler then scored on a double to center by Cave that pushed the Minnesota lead to 5-2.
Cave finished the night 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles and a walk. It marked his second three-hit game of the week; he went 3-for-5 with a homer and a double Sunday against the Cubs.
Fernando Rodney came on to close out the ninth for the Twins and struck out Davis to begin a three-up, three-down frame and lock down his 18th save of the season.
Molitor said that Slegers' spot in the rotation isn't set in stone, but his outing on Thursday did help make the decision to start him again next week a bit easier.
"We're going to figure that out," Molitor said. "Off the top of my head, I would say that between the bullpen outing that he gave us and tonight, there would be strong consideration to do that.
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
In the bottom of the sixth, Kepler roped a double to the left-field corner that sent Jorge Polanco sprinting home from first to give the Twins a 4-1 lead. However, the Orioles challenged that the ball had actually bounced over the left-field wall and back onto the field.
After a brief review, umpires ruled that the ball had indeed cleared the fence and Kepler's hit was scored as a ground rule double. As a result, the run was taken off the board and Polanco was sent back to third base. Cashner proceeded to work his way out of a bases-loaded jam and escape the inning unscathed.