I realize that I say the forms of "notch" quite often, so here's a picture of Troy Barnes adding a notch to his Notches.
Anyway, Pedro Hernandez was on the edge for the first couple innings of today's game, but used some timely defense to tightrope out of danger before settling into a groove as the Twins beat the Rangers 7-2 for Hernandez's first career win.
Hernandez was not sharp to start the game as he allowed 5 hits through the first 3 innings, but his defense and a little luck kept the Rangers off the scoreboard. In the first inning with Craig Gentry on 1st base, Hernandez was able to pick off Gentry with cleanup hitter Nelson Cruz batting. In the second, it was a leadoff single by Cruz that turned into an out when center fielder Aaron Hicks was able to throw out Cruz attempting to stretch the hit into a double. Then in the 3rd, after Leury Garcia had a one-out single, Ian Kinsler lifted a deep fly ball to left-center field. The ball landed at the warning track and would have easily scored Garcia as he had been running on the pitch, but the Twins were lucky as Kinsler's hit bounced into the seats for a ground-rule double, forcing Garcia to retreat back to 3rd base. Hernandez then got Gentry to line out to short and Adrian Beltre to fly out to left field.
Meanwhile, Rangers pitcher Derek Holland was shutting down the Twins. He had two perfect innings to start the game and would have started the 3rd the same, except a bouncer to 1st baseman Mitch Moreland eluded his grasp and gave the Twins their first baserunner on the error. The Twins then used some small ball to work Hicks around the bases, as Eduardo Escobar singled to left field. With left fielder David Murphy playing more towards left-center field, Hicks was able to jet around to 3rd base. After Pedro Florimon popped out, Brian Dozier lifted a sacrifice fly to deep right-center field which brought Hicks home with the game's first run.
Even with that hiccup, Derek Holland was dealing. He was regularly getting quick outs and was averaging just over 10 pitches an inning through the first 5 innings. However, the Twins finally became more patient and it paid off. In the 6th inning, with Dozier on 2nd base and 2 outs, Josh Willingham was able to connect with a Holland fastball and deposited it over the left field seats for his 4th home run of the year and a 3-0 Twins lead.
That would be all that Hernandez needed, as he was on a pitch count of about 80 pitches and exited the game in the 5th when the score was still 1-0. A cavalcade followed Hernandez to the mound in Anthony Swarzak, Brian Duensing, and Jared Burton, and they were able to keep the Rangers off the board.
The Twins continued chipping away at the Rangers, adding another run in the 7th and 3 more in the 8th off reliever Michael Kirkman, with the big blow being an Aaron Hicks 2-run double down the left field line, his first major league extra base hit. The insurance was more than enough, even as Glen Perkins gave up 2 runs in the 9th inning.
WP: Pedro Hernandez (1-0)
LP: Derek Holland (1-2)
Pedro Hernandez (5 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K), Josh Willingham (2 for 4, 2-run HR, 2 R), Eduardo Escobar (2 for 4)
Joe Mauer (0 for 4, 2 K), Glen Perkins (1 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 2 K)
Player of the Game: I'm going to cop out and give it to two players. Pedro Hernandez for his solid pitching through the first 5 innings, and Josh Willingham for his 2-run homer that gave the Twins all the runs they needed.