MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Thanks to Ricky Nolasco, the Minnesota Twins didn’t need to use their tired bullpen.
Thanks to Ubaldo Jimenez, their batters were dormant, too.
Jimenez struck out a season-high 10 over seven-plus scoreless innings for his first win with Baltimore, and Nelson Cruz hit a two-run home run to pad his lead for the Orioles in a 3-0 victory on Friday over the Minnesota Twins.
Jimenez (1-4) allowed only three hits while taking a significant step forward from five rough starts to begin his $50 million, four-year contract with the Orioles. Jimenez dropped his ERA from 6.59 to 5.19, after leaving with one out in the eighth following Eduardo Escobar’s double.
Zach Britton stranded the runner with a groundout and a called third strike on Joe Mauer, and Tommy Hunter picked up his eighth save in nine tries by pitching the ninth. Trevor Plouffe led off with a double, but Hunter struck out the next two and ended the game on a groundout.
Ricky Nolasco (2-3) gave the Twins a complete game, giving up nine hits and one walk while striking out six for his eighth career nine-inning appearance.
Cruz doubled in the fourth, scoring on a double by Matt Wieters, before his soaring drive into the third deck above left field followed a leadoff single by Manny Machado in the sixth inning. Cruz, who entered the night tied for fourth in the league in homers, has gone deep eight times already with his new team.
“Just made a bad pitch on him. Didn’t get it where he wanted to, and the guy got him,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
The sign that this would be Jimenez’s night came in the third inning, when Sam Fuld and Escobar each reached base. The 30-year-old right-hander with the herky-jerky delivery dug in and struck out the side after that: Brian Dozier, Mauer and Plouffe.
“You tip your hat to him. He made some really good pitches,” Gardenhire said. “We’ve seen that before when he was with other ballclubs. He’s a guy who can get in a little trouble, and he knows how to turn it up to another level and the ball comes out even a little hotter.”
From the third into the eighth, Jimenez retired 16 of 17 batters, with the only outlier a fielding error by second baseman Jonathan Schoop that put Escobar on with two outs in the fifth.
“He seemed to be pretty much cruising all night,” Fuld said.
Jimenez, who threw a season-high 118 pitches, had issued 17 walks in 27 1-3 innings over those prior five starts. Three runs allowed was his lowest total.
Nolasco, who received the richest deal the Twins have ever given a free agent from another team, likewise has had a rocky start to the $49 million, four-year contract he signed with the club. But only on the road, where the right-hander has taken the mound four times.
“Ricky pitched well enough to win, for sure. Yeah, it’s frustrating. Good teams find a way to win when a pitcher throws a game like that,” Fuld said.
In two turns at Target Field, Nolasco has allowed just four runs on 14 hits and two walks in 17 innings.
“Just trying to go out there and give us some innings and a chance to win,” Nolasco said.
These were two tired teams taking the field, each forced into a doubleheader the day before by wet weather prior to that. The Orioles swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in Baltimore on Thursday and arrived in Minneapolis around 5:30 a.m.
The Twins had the benefit of being at home, but after a Wednesday night game that lasted 3:38 they were swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday in games that took 3:01 and 5:11. The last one, the longest game in five seasons at Target Field, took 12 innings. They used three pitchers in the first game and eight more in the second one.
NOTES: Mauer is tied for the team lead with 30 strikeouts. … The Orioles will send LH Wei-Yin Chen (3-1, 4.34 ERA) to the mound on Saturday afternoon, and RH Kevin Correia (0-3, 7.33 ERA) will pitch for the Twins. Chen has won both of his road starts this year. Correia gave up eight runs in only 2 1-3 innings in his last turn. … Correia went down to the bullpen as the emergency pitcher in case the game kept going the night before. Was he warming up, Gardenhire was asked? “No, he was freezing,” Gardenhire quipped. … The Twins announced their rained-out game against Detroit last Sunday will be made up as part of a day-night doubleheader on Aug. 23 when the Tigers make their next weekend trip to Target Field.