Martin Perez pitched eight scoreless innings in his longest start in two seasons, and Jonathan Schoop hit a towering two-run homer to help the Minnesota Twins beat the Houston Astros 6-2 on Wednesday night.
Perez (4-0) allowed only four hits and two walks while striking out seven, improving to 3-0 with a 2.08 ERA in his first four starts with his new team after the early schedule with extra off days steered the Twins to shorten their rotation and start him in the bullpen.
The 28-year-old left-hander last completed eight innings on Aug. 9, 2017, for Texas. He won a career-high 13 games for the Rangers that season. For the Twins, Perez has logged at least six innings in each of his four turns.
After a walk by George Springer and a single by Jose Altuve to start the game, Perez appeared to be in trouble when Alex Bregman connected on a 2-1 cutter. The fly ball held up at the warning track, though, and Carlos Correa grounded into a double play to end the inning.
Bregman homered on Tuesday night, when the Astros won 11-0, and had gone deep five times in his last eight games at Target Field.
Collin McHugh (3-3) hit Mitch Garver with a pitch to start the third, and Schoop made him pay with his drive into the third deck above left field. Byron Buxton followed with a single and a stolen base, before coming home on a soft infield single by Jorge Polanco.
McHugh finished six innings, with five hits, four runs and one walk allowed while striking out two.
Ex-Twins catcher Joe Mauer attended the game, his first appearance as a former player. He spent a couple of innings in the ESPN broadcast booth at the request of analyst Rick Sutcliffe. Mauer has kept busy at home, where he and his wife have twin 5-year-old daughters and a son who was born two days after his retirement news conference in November.
“Hit the ground running,” Mauer said. “It’s been great.”
Astros: RHP Josh James, who worked a scoreless but shaky inning in relief while dealing with some back stiffness, was not expected to be available, manager A.J. Hinch said. He’ll need a fresh bullpen this weekend, because while the Astros can add a 26th man for their two-game series this weekend in Mexico against the Los Angeles Angels, the extra must be a position player.
Twins: Backup catcher/infielder Willians Astudillo (strained left hamstring) will join the team on the upcoming six-game road trip, but manager Rocco Baldelli wouldn’t guarantee he’d be cleared to play when he’s eligible to come off the injured list in a week. “As soon as he can get out there and run and do some different things and show us he’s good to go, then we’ll have him ready,” Baldelli said.
Astros: RHP Brad Peacock (2-1, 3.67 ERA) will take the mound for the Thursday matinee. He held Cleveland to one run on four hits and one walk in six innings while striking out seven in his previous start.
Twins: RHP Jose Berrios (4-1, 2.97 ERA) will pitch the series finale. He’s 3-0 with a 1.77 ERA in three starts at home this season, with 25 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings and a .176 opponent batting average.