MINNEAPOLIS -- Right-hander Lance Lynn threw five scoreless innings with nine strikeouts to bounce back from a shaky season debut and hold the high-octane Astros in check early, but the Twins couldn't capitalize on scoring opportunities against Justin Verlander and Houston's bullpen in a 2-0 loss in the series opener
MINNEAPOLIS -- Right-hander Lance Lynn threw five scoreless innings with nine strikeouts to bounce back from a shaky season debut and hold the high-octane Astros in check early, but the Twins couldn't capitalize on scoring opportunities against Justin Verlander and Houston's bullpen in a 2-0 loss in the series opener on a cold Monday night at Target Field.
Starting with a game-time temperature of 35 degrees, Lynn didn't have his best control, walking four after he walked six in his first outing, but he used strikeouts to get out of several jams and allowed just three hits. He needed 105 pitches to get through the five frames, which he felt was the most important stat of the game.
"I look at it as 105 pitches in five innings," said Lynn. "That's not good enough in my opinion. The strikeouts are good, the walks are too many. Too many pitches, not enough innings."
When Lynn was told he's now thrown eight scoreless innings since giving up five runs in the opening inning of his first start, he didn't hesitate to say he doesn't feel like he's on a roll.
"It feels miserable," said Lynn, who has a 5.00 ERA. "I feel like I've gotten off to the worst start I've ever got off to in the big leagues. It needs to change real quick. Good thing is there's a lot of season left, so I'll be all right."
Lynn ran into trouble in the second, walking Marwin Gonzalez and giving up a hit to Brian McCann, but then bounced back to strike out J.D. Davis, Jake Marisnick and Derek Fisher to get out of the inning.
He walked Alex Bregman with one out in the fifth, but Bregman was caught stealing before Lynn struck out Jose Altuve looking to end his outing. It was one of three strikeouts looking for Lynn, who induced 15 swings-and-misses on the night.
The Astros scored their first run in the sixth after Carlos Correa opened the frame with a double off lefty Taylor Rogers. Rogers recorded two big outs before handing it over to Trevor Hildenberger, who surrendered the go-ahead hit on an RBI single to Davis to left.
Houston tacked on another run in the eighth on an RBI double from Gonzalez that was misplayed by left fielder Eddie Rosario. Rosario also let Davis' go-ahead hit get past him for a two-base error, but Davis was stranded at third in the sixth.
It was more than enough offense for Verlander, who threw seven scoreless innings, allowing four hits and a walk with nine strikeouts. Minnesota's biggest scoring threat came against him in the eighth when it had runners at the corners with nobody out, but he kicked it up a notch to escape the jam.
The Twins made it interesting in the eighth, loading the bases with one out after an overturned call at second base, but reliever Chris Devenski came in and got Rosario to ground into a first-pitch double play to keep Minnesota scoreless. In the ninth, Byron Buxton nearly tied the game with a two-run homer off Ken Giles, who was brought in with two outs, only to see it go just foul down the left-field line.
"I did [think it was fair] for a little bit and then once it got toward the outfield, you could tell it started switching directions," Buxton said. "So, it is what it is."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Twins can't capitalize:Jason Castro led off the sixth inning with a stand-up double, and James Dozier followed with an infield single to get the Twins in scoring position. But Verlander answered by striking out Joe Mauer and Miguel Sano in succession -- with his fastest pitch of the night, a 96.4-mph fastball, coming on the third strike to Sano. Verlander then forced Rosario to pop up to end the inning.
"He has that ability to have another gear when [there's] a little bit of traffic on the bases there," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "We had first and third with nobody out and he got a couple punchouts and a popout. We couldn't get a big hit."
Bullpen gives up lead: With Lynn out of the game to start the sixth inning, Houston went to work right away against the bullpen. Correa led off the inning with a double to left off of Rogers and later scored when Davis lined a single to left that turned into extra bases when the ball skipped past Rosario to the warning track. The RBI was Davis' first of the season.
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Lynn has now issued 10 walks in his first two games with the Twins, which is the most he's ever surrendered over two consecutive starts in his seven-year career.
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Mauer was ruled out on a force when Bregman threw to Altuve at second base. After a review, the umpires overturned the call and ruled that Mauer beat the throw to the bag and was safe to load the bases with one out. Rosario then grounded into a double play.
The Twins will face off again with the Astros on Tuesday night as Jake Odorizzi takes the mound at 7:10 p.m. CT at Target Field. The 28-year-old righty, who has a 2.61 ERA in two starts, is seeking his first win in his home debut.
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Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.