DETROIT -- Stephen Gonsalves has struggled to find his footing in the Major Leagues since being called up to the Twins on Aug. 20. The 24-year-old rookie had a 9.90 ERA in August, and his first September start lasted just 2 1/3 innings after giving up five runs. But after notching his first Major League win Wednesday afternoon at Comerica Park, Gonsalves appears to be on the right track.
Gonsalves threw six shutout innings of one-hit ball as the Twins rolled over the Tigers, 8-2, for the three-game series sweep and their fourth win in a row.
"It's learning to trust your stuff," Gonsalves said. "That's what we did today. The last 3-4 outings we were talking mechanics and we just said, 'You know what, don't even worry about that. Just throw the ball as hard as you can over the plate.' And that's what we did today."
Six innings pitched is a full inning longer than his previous high. Gonsalves didn't allow a hit until JaCoby Jones singled with one out in the sixth inning. The only Tigers hit before then was a single by Nicholas Castellanos in the first inning. Combined with his last outing against the Royals, Gonsalves has gone his last nine innings allowing just one hit and an unearned run. Before these last two outings, Gonsalves hadn't allowed fewer than three runs in a game.
"I just thought he was getting his fastball in a better spot and his changeup in a better spot," manager Paul Molitor said. "When he's been getting hurt, it's either been hitters counts or mistakes up in the zone, and we didn't see too many of those today."
Of the 19 batters Gonsalves faced, only two went to three-ball counts.
For the second straight outing, Gonsalves entered after an "opener," a strategy the Twins have been experimenting with in September. Gabriel Moya threw a scoreless first inning Wednesday, which allowed Gonsalves to have to face the top of the Tigers' order only twice.
Gonsalves got an early boost from his offense. The Twins were hitting early against Tigers rookie Spencer Turnbull, who was making his first Major League start. After being retired in order in the first inning, the Twins got their first four hitters on base in the second. Two RBI singles followed by two RBI groundouts gave the Twins an early 4-0 lead. One of those RBI hits came from Christopher Austin, who batted in three runs in Tuesday night's win. Austin finished the series 4-for-7 with five RBIs.
"For anybody who comes up here and tries to get their feet on the ground and it doesn't go particularly well at the beginning, there's always that doubt factor," Molitor said of Gonsalves. "... I think from that aspect, having a little bit of a lead was probably a good thing for him."
The Twins tagged Turnbull with two more runs in the fourth inning. Ehire Adrianza's one out-double led to a throwing error by right fielder Michael Mahtook that allowed Austin to score, and Willians Astudillo scored Adrianza with a double to make it 6-0.
Now, Gonsalves just has to figure out who he's going to give the game ball to.
"We'll have to figure out where it goes," Gonsalves said. "I gave my dad the first strikeout and then my grandma the first out. We'll see where this first one goes."
Astudillo is best known as the 5-foot-9, 225-pound baseball player who said he just wants to show that "chubby people also run." But the 26-year-old rookie stuffed the stat sheet Wednesday with two hits and three RBIs. It's the first time in his career that Astudillo has recorded three RBIs in a game.
HE SAID IT
"His left shoulder has been bothering him some on the right-handed swing. If you guys recollect that his last couple at-bats that he did bat right-handed, he bunted, and we were just trying to stay away from that. He's been trying to get it better to where he's comfortable enough swinging. We'll see where it is in Oakland. He hung in there, got a lefty-on-lefty double, and maybe found something." -- Molitor, on Adrianza batting left-handed against lefty pitchers
After an off-day Thursday, the Twins continue their road trip with a three-game series against the A's, starting with a 9:05 p.m. CT first pitch Friday. Jose Berrios (11-11, 3.81 ERA) will be on the mound for Minnesota, with Oakland yet to announce a starter. Berrios has gone a combined 12 innings and given up three runs in his last two starts.