Rookie right-hander Louie Varland recorded the second scoreless start of his career while veteran first baseman Donovan Solano drove in four runs as the Minnesota Twins won the rubber match of their three-game series with the host Houston Astros 8-2 on Wednesday.
Varland (3-1) twirled a career-best seven innings and dominated throughout, allowing four hits and one walk while notching five strikeouts. He needed just 86 pitches to stifle the Astros in his first scoreless start since he blanked the Chicago White Sox over five frames on Oct. 5, 2022.
Varland faced the minimum through three innings and retired Kyle Tucker with two runners aboard in the fourth. He again dodged trouble in the sixth when Jeremy Pena singled with two out and Yordan Alvarez followed with a walk, but Varland induced an inning-ending grounder from Alex Bregman.
Astros rookie right-hander Hunter Brown (5-2) appeared poised to match Varland pitch for pitch until the bottom fell out from beneath him in the third. He struck out five of the first six batters he faced and appeared to strike out Max Kepler for his fifth consecutive strikeout to open the third. Kepler was heading back to the dugout before being summoned back to the plate, with his swinging third strike ruled a foul ball.
Kepler took advantage, hitting a single, and so too did Willi Castro, before Michael A. Taylor walked to load the bases with no outs. Brown rallied with a strikeout of Edouard Julien, but Solano delivered a two-run single to right that keyed the three-run frame.
Brown seemed to right himself with a pair of strikeouts to cap the fourth inning, but he did not survive the fifth, departing with a pair of runners on and two outs. Both scored when Ryan Jeffers smacked a two-run double off Astros left-hander Parker Mushinski, closing the book on Brown, who allowed five runs on six hits and two walks while striking out eight.
Solano struck again with a two-run double that extended the Twins' lead to 7-0 in the sixth. Alex Kirilloff, Jeffers and Castro also posted two-hit games for the Twins, who lost their previous four series.
Jake Meyers and Yainer Diaz belted back-to-back homers off Twins reliever Jorge Lopez in the eighth.
Wednesday, May 31, 2023 8:10 PM ET Location: Minute Maid Park Umpires:
Home - Adam Hamari, First - Nick Mahrley, Second - Victor Carapazza, Third - Jerry Layne Temperature: 73 °
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