MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Byron Buxton and Kyle Farmer hit three-run homers to power the Minnesota Twins past the Houston Astros 9-6 on Saturday.
Christian Vázquez had two RBI singles, Trevor Larnach had two hits and an RBI and Joe Ryan (2-0) recovered from Yordan Alvarez’s grand slam to win his second straight start.
The defending champion Astros were held hitless in seven of nine innings and fell to 3-6. The Twins, who lost all six games to the Astros last season by a combined 36-11, improved to 6-2.
Jeremy Peña gave his slump and the lagging Astros lineup a jolt with a two-run homer in the ninth off Jovani Moran, who left two on for Jhoan Duran to clean up the mess. Duran retired Yainer Diaz — the tying run — with a strikeout for his second save.
The damage had already done by the Twins with a four-run eighth against Ronel Blanco highlighted by Buxton’s first homer of the season. The Twins went deep only six times in their first seven games.
Astros reliever Seth Martinez (1-1) took the loss on Vázquez’s tiebreaking single in the sixth that followed a double by Farmer, who had three hits after a game-winning single in the 10th inning in the series opener. Farmer hit a three-run shot in a four-run second against Astros starter Luis Garcia, who finished four innings.
Alvarez delivered his third career slam in the third, a 116 mph drive over the limestone facade and into the plants in right field that was measured by MLB’s Statcast data as the third-hardest hit in baseball this season. Alvarez, who has three homers this year, moved into the major league lead with 14 RBIs.
The Twins debuted at Ryan’s request new cream-colored jerseys with dark blue lettering and “Twin Cities” across the front, one of four new uniform sets that emerged from a major offseason makeover.
The more important upgrade was on the rotation, with the acquisition of Pablo López, the return of Kenta Maeda from injury and the opportunity for Sonny Gray and Tyler Mahle to get healthier over the winter too. The Twins have the best team ERA in the major leagues, and their starters allowed just five runs in 40 1/3 innings over the first seven games.
Thanks to Alvarez’s big swing on the first pitch from Ryan, that streak of one or zero runs allowed ended with a smash. But Ryan, the youngest member of the group, snapped right back by retiring the next 11 batters in a row to finish six innings for the second start in a row.
Astros batters struck out 16 times in the series opener and whiffed 17 more times in this game, with seven strikeouts in an eight-batter stretch from the sixth to the eighth. José Abreu took a called third strike in the second inning for a clock violation.
AT THE TOP
Astros manager Dusty Baker moved Chas McCormick into the leadoff spot that opened when star Jose Altuve broke his thumb late in spring training. Peña, who struck out four times on Friday, was moved down to the sixth spot.
DEPTH OF FIELD
Twins right fielder Max Kepler (right knee soreness) was placed on the 10-day injured list prior to the game, his fourth straight absence. Joey Gallo was also held out with soreness in his right side. The Twins called up Matt Wallner from Triple-A St. Paul for another outfielder. Byron Buxton is exclusively serving as the designated hitter early in the season to be careful in his comeback from knee trouble.
Astros: RHP Hunter Brown (0-0, 7.71 ERA) pitches on Sunday.
Twins: RHP Tyler Mahle (1-0, 1.80 ERA) takes the mound for the series finale.