HOUSTON -- Two hours before game time Monday, the Twins didn't know whether one of their players was going on the disabled list, or even which one. They weren't sure whether someone would have to be sent to the minors, or if a trade was in the works. And while they were sure who was pitching, they didn't really know much about him.
"We sent a message over to the 1/8Houston3/8 manager ... that we were having some roster issues," manager Ron Gardenhire said of his in-flux team. "I've never had" so many questions, so close to game time, he said. "But somebody's going to have to come off the roster. Joe Mauer's going to be playing tonight."
A trade with the Royals subtracted Josh Willingham from the roster and made room for Mauer, gone for nearly six weeks. The first baseman went 2-for-4 with two doubles -- including an a two-run double in the ninth inning that provided the winning runs in the Twins' 4-2 victory. Mauer also walked and extended his hitting streak to 13 games.
And if there were any other questions, Tommy Milone took care of them. The left-handed starter, acquired from the A's on July 31, pitched six innings in his Twins debut, and was exactly as advertised. "He knows what he's doing out there," catcher Kurt Suzuki, a former teammate in Oakland, said. "He doesn't light up the radar gun, but he knows how to pitch. He makes his 88-mph fastball look a lot harder because he throws four different pitches and he moves the ball around."
That's what he showed in Oakland, where he won 31 games over three seasons and went 6-3 with a 3.55 ERA this year, and that's what he showed in Minute Maid Park. "He can get strikeouts because he's good at setting hitters up," Suzuki said. "He pitches sneaky sometimes."
He delivered six strong innings Monday. He allowed a hit in all six innings, eight in all, plus three walks. He showed an ability to get out of trouble. He loaded the bases in the second but got leadoff hitter Robbie Grossman to hit into a double play. He picked off a runner. And he held Houston to 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.
Sometimes hitters guess right about the 88-mph fastballs, or the 80-mph changeups. Jose Altuve did, and lined a home run in the first inning. Chris Carter got straight changeups in the fifth, and deposited the second one 10 rows deep.
But for all the baserunners, neither home run came with anyone on base. Milone turned over the game to the bullpen in the seventh inning, tied 2-2.
Minnesota scored a first-inning run when first baseman Jon Singleton dropped a double-play relay that would have ended the inning. And the Twins added another run in the fourth, when Peacock's pickoff throw got past Singleton, allowing Eduardo Escobar to score from third.
Mauer, meanwhile, walked in his first appearance since straining an oblique muscle on July 1, then bashed a double off the top of the left-field wall in the third inning, just missing a home run by a foot or two.
"I'm sore today. That's going to be the case the rest of this year," he said of his injured rib cage. "There will be days when I'm not feeling great, but it's just good to be back."
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