The Minnesota Twins, probably as much as any team in baseball, needed a pick-me-up after taking four straight losses and nine defeats in 10 games as they opened a quick three-game homestand.
They got it Friday in a 2-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates as left-hander J.A. Happ had a no-hit bid last 7 1/3 innings and Minnesota turned in a combined one-hitter.
“It feels really good,” Happ said, adding that finding a way to give the Twins a lift “was the goal coming in. We came off a tough road trip. We needed to get a win.”
Now it becomes a matter of turning that into something that lasts longer than a night against a club that has turned things around lately. The series continues Saturday when Pirates right-hander Trevor Cahill (0-2, 9.69 ERA) is scheduled to face Twins right-hander Michael Pineda (1-0, 1.00).
Pittsburgh, after a 1-6 start, has won eight of 13 despite Friday’s game, which was hardly a disaster. The Pirates gave up just five hits, but two of them were solo homers by Willians Astudillo and Jake Cave.
JT Bruaker, Pittsburgh’s Friday starter who took the tough-luck loss despite a strong outing, sees no reason why the Pirates will be rattled.
“That was a great game,” Brubaker said, pointing out several strong defensive plays the Pirates made.
Jacob Stallings, whose double broke up the no-hitter, said the pressure was on Happ during Friday’s game, not on Pittsburgh.
“It’s not like a 10-0 no-hitter,” he said.
Now the Twins turn to Pineda for a follow-up.
With Byron Buxton and Nelson Cruz carrying Minnesota on offense, Pineda has been a bright spot for the team on the mound — at least outside of Happ’s performance Friday.
Two of Pineda’s three outings have been quality starts, he has allowed two runs over three starts. Pineda owns a 0.72 WHIP, opponents are batting .159 against him, and he brings a 10-inning scoreless streak into Saturday.
In his most recent start, April 15 against the Boston Red Sox, Pineda was sterling despite not getting a decision. He pitched seven shutout innings, giving up just one hit in the first inning and one in the seventh, with one walk and six strikeouts.
“I (had) really good feel, especially for my fastball, and I tried to locate it inside and outside to the plate,” Pineda said. “Everything is working good. That’s what we want.”
Pineda has faced the Pirates just once, a no-decision in a start April 22, 2017, while with the New York Yankees. He gave up three runs and five hits in five innings, with two walks and six strikeouts.
Cahill, who signed with Pittsburgh on March 12, hasn’t found the form he had last year with the San Francisco Giants, when he allowed two runs or fewer in all but one of his 11 outings, including six starts.
On Saturday in a loss at Milwaukee, Cahill gave up seven runs, six of them earned, in four innings. All seven of the runs came in the first two innings before he settled down.
“It makes it tough when I feel like every single outing the leadoff guy seems to reach base, and you’re (pitching) out of the stretch right away and you’re into some trouble,” Cahill said. “So it makes it tough and just kind of takes a lot out of you. (It would) be nice to have a clean inning.”
In 10 career games against the Twins, eight of them starts, Cahill is 1-4 with a 5.55 ERA.
–Field Level Media