MIAMI (AP) — Minnesota Twins manager Rocco Baldelli believes his team’s early success this season has hinged on starting pitching.
The Twins pitched two shutouts during their opening series in Kansas City, then held down the Miami Marlins in an 11-1 blowout Monday night.
Minnesota’s starters have permitted only two runs in four games.
“We’ve done a good job position player-wise. We’ve made the plays behind them, swung the bats and had very competitive at-bats,” Baldelli said. “I like what I’m seeing all around the field. But it starts with the starting pitching. The starting pitching has probably been the biggest face of what we’ve done so far in this very short season.”
Max Kepler hit a leadoff homer and Joey Gallo added a three-run shot to help Minnesota remain unbeaten.
Trevor Larnach also went deep and Tyler Mahle pitched five solid innings for the Twins, who swept the Royals last weekend and are 4-0 for the ninth time in franchise history. The last time was 2017.
Mahle (1-0) struck out seven, walked one and limited the Marlins to one run on five hits. Minnesota relievers Jorge Alcala and Cole Sands gave up seven hits combined without allowing a run.
“Our bullpen coming in throwing two innings each,” Mahle said. “They had a little bit of traffic, too, but good for them for not letting the game speed up and just making pitches.”
Miami starter Johnny Cueto exited with right biceps tightness in the second inning after giving up two home runs in his Marlins debut.
Cueto said he’d been feeling discomfort in his biceps since spring training. Marlins manager Skip Schumaker said Cueto will undergo further imaging.
“I didn’t want to leave. I want to compete, but you also can’t force things because it was my first outing,” Cueto said.
Kepler began the game with a homer to right-center, but left in the fourth with a sore right knee. Gallo tagged Cueto (0-1) in the second with a first-pitch drive that scored Jose Miranda, who walked to lead off the inning, and Nick Gordon, who singled.
Right-hander Jeff Lindgren, just called up from Triple-A Jacksonville, entered for Cueto and retired Christian Vazquez, Michael Taylor and Kepler to end the inning.
Minnesota scored in each of the first four innings. Larnach had an RBI triple in the third and a two-run homer off Andrew Nardi in the seventh that made it 10-1.
Miranda hit an RBI single in the third, and Carlos Correa had an RBI double in the fourth.
Lindgren gave up five hits, four earned runs and three walks in five innings.
Luis Arraez had an RBI single for Miami in the fifth. Last year’s AL batting champion has at least one hit in each of the first five games this season, including four multi-hit games.
Arraez faced his former team for the first time since Minnesota traded him to the Marlins for a three-player package featuring starting pitcher Pablo López.
“I still love my guys, I still love Minnesota,” Arraez said. “This is business, not personal. I just go out there and play baseball.”
The Marlins put catcher Jacob Stallings in at pitcher, his second time at the position, in the ninth inning. Stallings retired pinch-hitters Kyle Farmer and Willi Castro, then gave up a home run to pinch-hitter Ryan Jeffers to make it 11-1.
To make room for Lindgren, Miami optioned LHP Braxton Garrett to Triple-A Jacksonville. Garrett gave up six hits, two runs and struck out one over three innings of relief in Saturday’s loss to the Mets.
“I hated doing it to Brax,” Schumaker said. “But the reality is we had 19 innings from our starting pitching, and we just kind of had to wear out that bullpen and needed a fresh arm.”
Minnesota: Kepler exited with right knee soreness after hustling to first on a groundball single. Farmer replaced him.
Miami: Jon Berti replaced Joey Wendle, who was a late scratch from the original lineup with oblique soreness. … RHP Nic Enright went on the 60-day injured list. The Marlins said Enright threw his second live bullpen Monday. … LHP Steven Okert threw his second bullpen, with a live BP scheduled for Wednesday.
The series continues Tuesday with Minnesota RHP Kenta Maeda facing Alcantara.