MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Slumping Kennys Vargas hit a solo home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning Thursday, lifting the Minnesota Twins to a 2-1 victory and a two-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Joe Mauer homered for the Twins, too, tying the game in the eighth to answer Jason Heyward’s solo shot for the Cardinals in the seventh.
Vargas grounded into two double plays, ruining a bases-loaded rally on one of those with one out in the seventh inning. He more than made up for that with his game-ending drive into the right-field seats off a slow curveball from Carlos Villanueva (3-2).
Vargas, who is 5 for 27 since being recalled from Triple-A Rochester, was mobbed at home plate by his teammates.
The Twins won for the first time in 25 games this season when trailing after seven innings. St. Louis lost for the first time in 35 games this year when leading after seven.
St. Louis still has baseball’s best record by a comfortable margin, and began the day with the only winning percentage above .600. The hitters have slumped lately, with the Cardinals scoring only 11 runs over their last five games.
The Cardinals also have recently had problems off the field. It was revealed this week that there’s a federal investigation into allegations that members of the organization hacked into the personnel database of the Houston Astros.
Blaine Boyer (2-2) pitched the ninth for the victory, after eight dominant innings by Mike Pelfrey in an old-fashioned duel with Jaime Garcia.
Pelfrey bounced back authoritatively from his worst start of the season, when he allowed 11 hits and eight runs over 3 2-3 innings at Texas. He gave up four hits and one walk while striking out three, the home run by Heyward the only blemish.
Pelfrey got Heyward to ground into a double play earlier, matching teammate Kyle Gibson for the major league lead in groundball double plays induced with 16. Pelfrey lowered his ERA to 2.97.
Garcia pitched into the seventh, allowing four hits and two walks while striking out four. Seth Maness bailed him out in the seventh after a walk and a single to start the inning, getting Vargas to ground weakly to shortstop for the double play.
Garcia issued his first walk in 30 innings, when Brian Dozier started the game with the base on balls.
The Cardinals were shut out in three of Garcia’s first five starts since returning from thoracic outlet surgery last summer to alleviate numbness and tingling in his left arm and hand, but he has been unfazed by the low production behind him. Garcia lowered his ERA to 1.76.
Cardinals: RHP Lance Lynn (strained forearm) has been playing catch, but manager Mike Matheny hasn’t reached the point of seeking daily updates, a sign that Lynn still has a ways to go in his recovery since being placed on the DL a little more than a week ago. “I haven’t asked that many questions. He’s just progressing nicely,” Matheny said.
Twins: RHP Ervin Santana, serving an 80-game suspension for a positive test for a performance-enhancing substance, will make three rehabilitation starts for Triple-A Rochester beginning on Saturday. “If all goes well, we’ll have a decision to make,” general manager Terry Ryan said.
Cardinals: The Cardinals continue their road trip in Philadelphia on Friday, with Tyler Lyons making his fifth start of the season opposite Cole Hamels of the Phillies.
Twins: The Twins host the Chicago Cubs on Friday, with Phil Hughes taking the mound against Kyle Hendricks.
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