MINNEAPOLIS – Joe Ryan threw seven innings of one-hit ball and Max Kepler stayed hot with a pair of home runs as the streaking Minnesota Twins defeated the Detroit Tigers 5-0 on Wednesday night.
Ryan Jeffers homered, doubled and drove in three runs for the Twins, who won their sixth game in a row.
Michael Pineda (1-1) took the loss for Detroit. He gave up four runs, including all three Twins homers, in five innings against his former team.
Ryan (3-1) was dominant from the start, holding the Tigers hitless until Miguel Cabrera laced a single in the fourth. The right-hander walked just one batter and struck out nine, two shy of his career high. He extended his scoreless streak to 17 2/3 innings and lowered his ERA to 1.17.
“Joe was spectacular,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Everything he wanted to do, he could do today. And when they put the ball in play, we made all the plays.”
Kepler, who homered and doubled Tuesday, started the scoring when he led off the second inning by driving Pineda's fastball 401 feet to the opposite field in left-center.
Kepler struck again with two outs in the fourth. This time, Pineda threw a changeup down and in, and Kepler turned on it. The ball hit the facing of the second deck in right-center, 423 feet away.
Minnesota took a 4-0 lead in the fifth when Trevor Larnach led off with a double and Jeffers followed with a line-drive home run to left.
Larnach led off the seventh with his second double of the night and Jeffers drove him in with another double to make it 5-0.
“They obviously didn’t miss a couple pitches in the strike zone,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “Kepler, we have not done a job of sequencing against him, and he gave them a nice lead. Jeffers kind of put an exclamation mark on it with another homer, so they did damage when they put the ball in play.”
Joe Smith and Danny Coulombe each pitched an inning of relief to finish the two-hitter for Minnesota.
Pineda spent the last three seasons in Minnesota, winning 22 games in 53 starts. He signed a one-year deal with the Tigers in March and joined the Detroit rotation with five shutout innings against the Yankees in his 2022 debut last Thursday.
“I tried to execute the pitches, and I missed a couple fastballs and one changeup, and this is the game,” Pineda said. “For me, I think I threw the ball really good. I just missed my location for three pitches and they did a bit of damage.”
Ryan, who pitched for Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics last summer, made five starts for Minnesota in September, going 2-1 with a 4.05 ERA. This year, he became the second rookie in Twins history to start on opening day.
“It’s fun to watch,” Kepler said of playing behind Ryan. "I know he’s a college guy, but just from a rookie that has so much confidence in approach, it seems like he has a plan every time, each at-bat. And I think he’s going to go a very, very long way with his game.”
STUCK ON YOU
Kepler’s second home run still hadn’t come down hours after he hit it. The ball wedged itself into the video board that runs along the facing of the second deck in right-center. Kepler said he's not about to go trophy hunting, however.
“I hope they leave it up there,” he joked.
The last time a Twins pitcher completed seven innings was on Sept. 8, 2021, when Ryan did it in his second career start. He was perfect through 6 1/3 innings at Cleveland that night and ended up allowing just one hit while striking out four.
Twins: Baldelli said catcher Gary Sanchez (abdominal tightness) would go through his usual pregame workout and is expected to be ready to play in Thursday's series finale.
Tigers: LHP Tarik Skubal (1-1, 2.30 ERA) takes the mound Thursday afternoon. In his most recent start, Skubal went six innings for the first time, blanking the Rockies on five hits while striking out six.
Twins: RHP Bailey Ober (1-1, 2.81) will make his fourth start of the season. Over his last two outings, Ober has allowed nine hits and one earned run while walking one and fanning nine in 11 innings.