MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Rich Hill pitched five scoreless innings in a smooth Minnesota debut, backed by Eddie Rosario’s homer and Nelson Cruz’s RBI double, and the Twins beat the St. Louis Cardinals 3-0 on Wednesday night.
Alex Avila, another Minnesota newcomer, had an RBI single. Taylor Rogers pitched a perfect ninth for his first save, and the Twins finished a two-game sweep to improve to 4-1.
Currently the second-oldest player in the majors, the 40-year-old Hill needed only 68 pitches to pick up his first victory for a Twins team that signed him this winter with the assumption he’d be ready around midsummer after his recovery from elbow surgery. When the coronavirus pandemic put baseball on pause for four months, Hill was available for the rotation right away.
The left-handed curveball artist even had his start pushed back by four days out of caution, and he was in fine form, allowing two singles and a walk.
The Cardinals, after winning their first two games against Pittsburgh, have scored four runs on 15 hits over a three-game losing streak.
Daniel Ponce de Leon (0-1) struck out eight over 3 2/3 innings. He gave up two hits, three walks and all three runs as a fill-in for Miles Mikolas, who was declared out for the season for forearm surgery.
The Twins, wearing the all-baby blue uniforms the franchise sported for road games in the 1980s, improved their run differential to plus-16. The defending American League Central division champions lead the major leagues with 7.2 runs per game.
Not until Hill joined Cruz this season had the Twins included two 40-year-old players on their opening day roster, and the last time they had such a duo on the team at the same time was 2004 with catcher Pat Borders and pitcher Terry Mulholland. Atlanta, with pitchers Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey in 2017, was the last major league team with a 40-plus pair.
Nobody in this virus-delayed season has his swing off to a stronger start than Cruz, the second-oldest active hitter in the major leagues behind Albert Pujols. Cruz went 7 for 13 with seven runs, two doubles, three homers and 10 RBIs in the opening series at Chicago. He leads the majors with 11 RBIs.
HEALTHY, WEALTHY AND WISE
Four of the seven oldest players in baseball were at Target Field for this series, with Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright and catcher Yadier Molina, both 38, on the list at fifth and a tie for sixth. Pujols, the three-time National League MVP for the Cardinals, is the oldest in the game. Pitcher Fernando Rodney, 43, would bump everyone down a spot if he signs with a club this summer.
Cardinals: Rookie Rangel Ravelo, who had 39 at-bats last season, was the DH for his season debut with Matt Carpenter getting his first rest day. Carpenter pinch hit for Ravelo in the eighth.
Twins: CF Byron Buxton was held out as planned as a precaution following his season debut on Tuesday, two weeks after suffering a sprained left foot. … 1B Miguel Sanó, who is 1 for 14 with six strikeouts, was pulled after the sixth inning.
Cardinals: After an off day Thursday, the team’s second in four days, RHP Jack Flaherty takes the mound on Friday night to begin a three-game series in Milwaukee. He was the winner in the season opener in St. Louis last week, allowing two runs over seven innings.
Twins: RHP José Berríos will start on Thursday night against Cleveland, commencing a four-game series. Berríos lasted four innings in his first turn, taking a no-decision after yielding five runs on seven hits in Minnesota’s season-opening victory.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports