Twins righthander Kenta Maeda pitched into the sixth inning Sunday at Texas to earn his third victory of the season. ARLINGTON, TEXAS – When the Twins left on their weeklong road trip, their roster didn’t include Byron Buxton, Max Kepler or Kenta Maeda, and they hadn’t won a series […]
ARLINGTON, TEXAS – When the Twins left on their weeklong road trip, their roster didn't include Byron Buxton, Max Kepler or Kenta Maeda, and they hadn't won a series in nearly a month. It's no coincidence that Sunday, that trio combined to finish off a sweep of the Rangers.
Buxton's two-run first-inning home run staked Maeda to a two-run lead, Kepler's third-inning single increased that cushion to four runs, and the Twins' Opening Day starter took a shutout into the sixth inning. That and more strong support from the bullpen delivered a 4-2 victory over Texas and kept the Twins unbeaten at Globe Life Field.
The Twins come home Monday with a different team than the one that left, and with a different outlook, too, after matching its season-best four-game winning streak. And the biggest transformation came not from a lineup slowly returning to health, but from a bullpen slowly returning to competence.
The winning streak was built on pitching, and especially relief pitching; Twins relievers contributed 16⅔ innings of work over the past four games, and allowed only three earned runs, including 7⅔ consecutive shutout innings the past two days.
"Thank God things are turning around for good," said Hansel Robles, who — pitching for the third day in a row — retired the Rangers in order in the ninth inning to earn his sixth save. "Right now, we're working as a team, and individually, each of us are executing our pitches and throwing the ball where we want to."
That's a big turnaround for a relief staff that entered Sunday ranked 14th in the American League with a 4.89 ERA. Their mark during the winning streak? 1.62.