Rookie Hicks drives in game-winning run vs. O's
Hernandez solid in second start, Morneau plates two on quirky double
BALTIMORE -- Through the first five games of the year, it certainly wasn't the start to the season that rookie Aaron Hicks had envisioned.
Hicks, who had an impressive Spring Training that allowed him to jump straight from Double-A to the big leagues, entered Sunday's game with just one hit in his first 22 at-bats.
But Hicks came through with the biggest hit of his young career, as he snapped an 0-for-13 skid with a go-ahead, RBI single in the seventh inning, and the Twins defeated the Orioles, 4-3, on Sunday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Hicks laced a first-pitch fastball from right-hander Jason Hammel with two outs to score Wilkin Ramirez, and the Twins were able to hold on to win their second straight series.
"It felt good not only to get a hit, but to drive a run in," said Hicks, who is hitting .077 (2-for-26) with three RBIs. "It was the go-ahead run and the game-winning run, so it was good. I've been trying to get a hit the entire time. I'm feeling good at the plate even though the results aren't showing it."
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire liked what he saw from Hicks, and he said the 23-year-old's confidence has yet to waver despite his slow start.
"You just have to tell him to keep swinging," Gardenhire said. "He's a good player. He even fell down in the outfield [in the third inning] and said he lost the ball in the sun. So he's having his moments. But if he can get through these things and keep playing, he'll be fine."
It was the second run of the inning for the Twins, as pinch-hitter Chris Parmelee tied the game with a sacrifice fly to right to score Trevor Plouffe, who was hit by a pitch for a third straight game.
Left-hander Pedro Hernandez made his Twins debut, and second career start, but took a no-decision, as he gave up three runs on four hits and three walks over five innings. He made the start in place of right-hander Cole De Vries, who landed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right forearm.
"I felt really good," Hernandez said. "I feel fantastic to have this opportunity to pitch in the Major Leagues again."
The Orioles scored three runs against Hernandez in the second. Former Twins shortstop J.J. Hardy hit a two-run homer before Nick Markakis added an RBI single to score Nolan Reimold.
The Twins came back with two runs in the top of the third, as Pedro Florimon and Joe Mauer walked and Josh Willingham was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Justin Morneau hit what looked to be a routine fly ball to center field, but it dropped in between Reimold and Adam Jones in left-center field for what ended up as a two-run double.
"It was a popup to center field. I assumed he had it," Reimold said. "By the time he said he needed help, it was a little bit too late. I tried to sprint over and get it, but it was a little bit too late. It was in the sun."
Right-hander Anthony Swarzak, who was activated from the 15-day disabled list before the game, earned the win. He threw 1 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Hernandez.
Relievers Brian Duensing, Jared Burton and Glen Perkins combined for 2 2/3 innings to preserve the win. Perkins recorded his second save.
"Swarzy came right out of Florida and pitched well for us," Gardenhire said. "And Deuce picked us up with some huge outs before Burton and Perkins at the end. It was a good performance."
The Twins improved to 4-2 with series wins over the Tigers and Orioles. Minnesota didn't win its second three-game series last season until May 18-20.
"It's early in the season but it's our goal to win series and get our fans back excited about this baseball team," Gardenhire said. "We know they'll always be there for us, but we want to win some games for them to get them excited. This is a couple of really good series, but it's really early in the year and we have to continue this for a while here."