SAN DIEGO -- There's no telling what the problem was with Phil Hughes on Wednesday night, whether it was a physical ailment, a strategic mistake or some flagging concentration. Maybe his dog was sick.
Whatever the cause, the effects were obvious: Three different times, Hughes ran the count to three balls on a Padres batter.
Don't worry, none of them actually reached base, of course; Hughes hasn't issued a walk in more than a month now. And without any extra baserunners, Hughes dominated the Padres for seven innings, winning his fifth consecutive decision, 2-0 at the Twins' home away from home, Petco Park.
Chris Parmelee drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, Trevor Plouffe provided a solo home run, and the Twins improved to 5-0 all-time in the Padres' downtown home. They've also won eight of their past 11 games and for the first time all season, stand two games above .500 at 23-21.
Hughes is a big part of that surge, considering the Twins haven't lost a game he's started since April 15. The righthander allowed seven hits over seven innings, but all were singles, which is why only one San Diego baserunner ever reached third base.
That inning may have been the most impressive test of all: Hughes surrendered singles to Chase Headley and Yonder Alonso leading off the sixth. A grounder to third produced an out at second base, but the 27-year-old Californian faced Will Venable and Cameron Maybin with the tying run one base away.
No problem. Venable battled through an eight-pitch at-bat, falling behind 0-2 -- Hughes threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of the 28 hitters he faced -- but then waited out three consecutive pitches just off the plate. Finally forced to throw a strike, Hughes chose the off-speed, 88-mph cutter, and Venable swung through it.
The threat ended just one pitch later, when Maybin grounded a ball to short for the final out.
Hughes retired 10 of the final 12 hitters he faced, but was lifted after seven innings for setup man Casey Fien in the eighth and closer Glen Perkins in the ninth, each of whom faced only three batters themselves. Perkins earned his 14th save of the season, which leads the American League.
It was the fifth consecutive start in which Hughes, who was acquired as a free-agent from the Yankees last December, has not issued a walk. His streak of 147 consecutive at-bats without issuing a walk, dating to the pass he issued the Royals' Alcides Escobar in the second inning on April 20, is the most by a Twin since Carlos Silva had a streak of 155 in a row in 2005.
Hughes also owns a 1.08 ERA in his past five starts, and by winning his fifth game, already owns more victories than all of last season, when he went 4-14 for New York.
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