The Minnesota Twins were hoping to get a boost from some returning veterans this week. They got their wish on Tuesday.
Michael Pineda threw a quality start in his first appearance since last September, and Byron Buxton, fresh off the injured list, drove in the go-ahead run as the Twins beat first-place Chicago, 3-2, Tuesday at Target Field.
The win stopped a six-game losing streak, the Twins’ longest since June 29-July 4, 2018, and pulled them with 1.5 games of Chicago and Cleveland in the American League Central with 23 regular-season games left. The first- and second-place teams in each division are guaranteed playoff spots, plus the two teams with the best remaining records in each league.
Chicago jumped out to an early lead with a two-run first inning, but the Twins scored runs in fifth and sixth innings to tie it. Nelson Cruz, who went 3 for 3 with a walk, started the seventh inning with a double and scored the go-ahead run on Buxton’s two-out single to left.
Returning from a PED suspension that ended his season early last September, Pineda looked very much like the pitcher who went 7-1 with a 2.76 earned-run average in his last 11 starts of 2019. He was suspended for 60 games, half the usual punishment, and testing positive for a diuretic banned by Major League Baseball.
Pineda stayed with the team through the playoffs last fall, and this season had been training and playing games with the minor leaguers at CHS Field. Last December, he signed a two-year, $20 million deal to stay in Minnesota.
Caleb Thielbar, Sergio Romo and Matt Wisler pitched the last three innings for the Twins. With help from third baseman Ehire Adrianza, who turned a potential double into a groundball out, Wisler earned his second career save, and first since he was with Atlanta in 2016.
Buxton had missed 11 games with inflammation in his left shoulder, which was surgically repaired last fall. He went 2 for 4 batting in the seventh spot and robbed Edwin Encarnacion of a home run in the sixth inning, leaping over the fence to snare his line drive in the left-center field gap.
Jorge Polanco singled and scored on a fielder’s choice grounder by Marwin Gonzalez to make it 2-1 in the fifth inning, and the Twins knotted the score in the sixth on pinch hits by Jake Cave and Luis Arraez, the first a one-out triple, the second a run-scoring double.