Devin Smeltzer added another chapter to his inspiring comeback story, pitching six shutout innings in his big league debut and helping the Minnesota Twins beat the Milwaukee Brewers 5-3 Tuesday night.
Diagnosed with a grapefruit-sized cancerous tumor against his bladder when he was just 9 years old, Smeltzer wasn’t deterred in his goal to reach the majors. The 23-year-old got his chance this week after the Twins put pitcher Michael Pineda on the injured list with right knee tendinitis.
Smeltzer allowed three hits, walked none and struck out seven. Showing a funky, three-quarter style delivery, the lanky left-hander threw 69 pitches, 53 for strikes.
Smeltzer left with the game scoreless and got a no-decision.
In nine combined starts at Double-A Pensacola and Triple-A Rochester, Smeltzer was 3-2 with a 1.15 ERA. Facing the Brewers, he retired his final eight Brewers, striking out Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich to end the sixth.
Smeltzer danced around damage in the second, third and fourth innings when, with a runner on base, the final out each inning was a catch on the warning track.
The Twins got Smeltzer last July in a trade that sent second baseman Brian Dozier to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Eddie Rosario homered and Max Kepler added a two-run double for Minnesota, which has won 12 of 14 and has the best record in the majors.
Keston Hiura and Yasmani Grandal homered late for the Brewers.
Rosario capped a five-run seventh inning with a two-run drive off Junior Guerra. It was the Twins’ 56th home run in May, setting a franchise record for a month.
It came after C.J. Cron doubled off Guerra to make it 3-0. Kepler, named American League Player of the Week, doubled in two runs earlier in the inning against Alex Claudio (1-2).
Matt Magill (1-0) tossed a scoreless inning and Ryne Harper got the final out for his first career save.
In the fourth, Kepler made a leaping grab at the wall, lost the ball in the transfer and doubled up Ryan Braun at second base. Milwaukee unsuccessfully challenged the catch and is 1-6 in replay challenges this season.
Milwaukee starter Zach Davies allowed five hits and struck out four in six shutout innings.
Smeltzer is the fourth Twins starter in team history to throw at least six shutout innings in his major league debut. Andrew Albers, Anthony Swarzak and Eric Milton are the others.
Brewers: RHP Jeremy Jeffress who was nearly hit in the head by a line drive Monday and fell back at an awkward angle, said he feels fine. . Entering Tuesday, 3B Travis Shaw (right wrist) was 2 for 19 in his first five games on a Triple-A rehab assignment with six strikeouts. Manager Craig Counsell said there is no timetable for his return.
Twins: CF Byron Buxton left in the second inning with a bruised right knee after crashing hard into the fence in front of the bullpens as he tried to catch a second-inning triple by Grandal. Tended to by a trainer, Buxton appeared to walk and jog OK, but was removed. He is day to day.
Brewers: send RHP Chase Anderson (2-0, 3.25) to the hill Thursday for the start of a four-game series in Pittsburgh. The Pirates plan to go with RHP Joe Musgrove (3-5. 4.27).
Twins: open a 10-game road trip Thursday with the first of four games in Tampa Bay. LHP Martin Pérez (7-1, 2.95), who has won six of eight starts since joining the rotation, is scheduled to face the Rays’ Charlie Morton (5-0, 2.54).