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Mejia delivers needed long outing for Twins

Lefty first Minnesota starter to go 7 innings since June 21
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

MINNEAPOLIS -- Coming off a road trip of 11 games in 10 days that didn't feature many strong performances from their starting pitchers, the Twins were hopeful rookie left-hander Adalberto Mejia could give them some length against the Angels on Monday.

Mejia did, throwing seven strong innings to give the bullpen some much-needed rest in a 9-5 win at Target Field. It was the first time a Twins starter went seven innings since June 21, and the first other than Ervin Santana or Jose Berrios since Mejia went seven on May 21.

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Coming off a road trip of 11 games in 10 days that didn't feature many strong performances from their starting pitchers, the Twins were hopeful rookie left-hander Adalberto Mejia could give them some length against the Angels on Monday.

Mejia did, throwing seven strong innings to give the bullpen some much-needed rest in a 9-5 win at Target Field. It was the first time a Twins starter went seven innings since June 21, and the first other than Ervin Santana or Jose Berrios since Mejia went seven on May 21.

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"He stepped up," manager Paul Molitor said. "He's been giving us some good games here as of late. It was nice to see him go deep tonight. I don't know the last time we had someone go seven innings other than Santana or Berrios. It was a pick-me-up for us."

Mejia threw 69 of his 103 pitches for strikes, while allowing three runs on nine hits and a walk, with five strikeouts. The left-hander reached 95 mph with his fastball, while mixing in 29 changeups and 28 sliders to keep hitters off balance.

"It feels good to help the team like that," said Mejia, who improved to 4-3 with a 4.32 ERA. "I've been trying to pitch far into games, and little by little, it's been happening."

Mejia has been pitching better of late, posting a 2.01 ERA over his last four starts. The 24-year-old with 12 career starts said he's feeling more comfortable in the Majors, and that he's learned not to panic or put extra pressure on himself on the mound.

Video: LAA@MIN: Mejia gets Espinosa swinging to end the 4th

Mejia said he kept that mentality in the fourth, when he allowed three straight hits, including a two-run single from Andrelton Simmons to cut the Twins' lead to 4-2. But Mejia settled down, not allowing another run until Luis Valbuena's leadoff homer in the seventh.

"It helps me stay calm like I've been," Mejia said. "It's been working. Just throwing strikes and getting hitters out, that mentality has been working for me. It helps to know it's been working."

Mejia's recent run has impressed Molitor, especially considering those four starts have come against the Indians (twice), Red Sox and Angels.

"It's one of those things where he's faced good teams and he's held his own," Molitor said. "He's starting to trust that his stuff can play up here. It's nice he's using all his pitches. The changeup is obviously a good pitch but with that slider we saw some swings and misses down and in against righties."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast.

Minnesota Twins, Adalberto Mejia