By La Velle E. Neal III, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) –
MILWAUKEE — The Minnesota Twins are on a winning streak. It’s not time to close the schools and head for the parade, but it hasn’t happened in a while.
The Twins hammered Milwaukee, 11-3, on Friday night in the interleague opener for both teams. Scott Diamond improved to 3-0 in as many starts. Denard Span was 4-for-5 with three RBI. Joe Mauer was 3-for-5 with three RBI and the Brewers helped out with four errors in front of an announced crowd of 32,421 at Miller Park.
Let’s be honest, it’s hard to consider winning two consecutive games a streak. But after winning games in Detroit on Wednesday and Thursday and now taking the first of a three-game series against the Brewers, the Twins have won three games in a row for the first time since last July 3-5.
“We’ve been playing pretty good baseball the last five or six games,” rookie shortstop Brian Dozier said. “Everything is kind of clicking. We’re getting the big hits.”
It didn’t seem possible a couple weeks ago, when the Twins couldn’t get a good outing from a starting pitcher and their offense disappeared. But they turned to Diamond, and the lefthander has stepped up since being called up from Class AAA Rochester.
He didn’t throw seven shutout innings as he did in his first two starts, victories over the Angels and Blue Jays. This time, he gave up three runs in 5 innings, his consecutive scoreless innings streak ending right away at 14 as Milwaukee scored in the first. Diamond was removed in the sixth inning after giving up a long solo homer to Ryan Braun and a double to Jonathan Lucroy.
But he improved to 3-0 nonetheless. Diamond, called up on May 7, now leads the Twins staff in victories. With a 4-1 record at Class AAA Rochester, he actually leads two teams.
“This is the one I think that matters a little more,” Diamond said. “I’m just happy to be contributing.”
Diamond has a 1.40 ERA through three major league starts and 19 innings. He showed the ability to make adjustments, throwing Corey Hart curveballs in the fifth — and eventually striking him out — after Hart singled and doubled off fastballs earlier in the game.
The Twins led 6-3 at the time, but they weren’t done hitting. Justin Morneau supplied a sacrifice fly in the seventh to make it 7-3 before the Twins broke the game open with four runs in the eighth. The Twins tied their season high for runs in a game, set Wednesday in Detroit.
The Twins’ first six runs came with two-out hits. Josh Willingham hit a two-run homer in the first inning. After Milwaukee tied the score, they took the lead for good with Mauer’s two-run double in the fifth inning — Diamond singled to start the rally and scored the go-ahead run — before Span added a two-run single in the sixth.
“Some good concentration. Some good patience,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Coming up with big two-out hits, It’s not easy to do.”
Span, who had missed three games with a tight right hamstring, boosted his average from .292 to .310 in one night with a double and three singles. He was lifted late in the game as part of a double switch, but his hamstring didn’t give him any problems.
“The big boys in our lineup all had really good nights,” Gardenhire said, “along with Span at the top, getting on base and having a huge night after the hamstring problem. He’s all good and feels great, which is good for us.”