MINNEAPOLIS – The shadows were long and the glare was strong in the 10th inning at Target Field for Minnesota’s home opener, so much so that Kyle Farmer couldn’t even see his winning hit.
The Twins and their fans enjoyed the view for him.
Farmer bounced a bases-loaded single straight up the middle of a drawn-in Houston infield, giving the Twins a 3-2 victory over the whiff-prone Astros on Thursday.
“You kind of have to take a shot and hope it finds a hole,” said Farmer, whose only previous walk-off hit came in his major league debut in 2017 with the Dodgers.
Twins starter Sonny Gray had a career high with 13 strikeouts in seven innings. Jorge López (1-0) was the winner after pitching the 10th.
After Astros closer Ryan Pressly struck out all three batters in the ninth inning and Mauricio Dubón drove in the go-ahead run with a single in the top of the 10th, Ryne Stanek (1-1) lost control in the bottom of the inning with two wild pitches and two walks.
Jose Miranda, who went 3 for 5, tied the game with a single after automatic runner Byron Buxton took third on the first wild pitch. After Donovan Solano was intentionally walked to load the bases, Farmer delivered by driving in Trevor Larnach to send the sellout crowd of 38,465 home happy on this sunny 49-degree afternoon after a one-day delay for better weather.
“Probably one of the loudest opening days I’ve ever had,” Buxton said.
Astros catcher Martín Maldonado, whose sightline was also affected by the late-afternoon sun, apologized to Stanek for failing to stop the wild pitches.
“In all the time I’ve thrown to Maldy, I’ve never seen him react like that on pitches,” Stanek said. “It’s just kind of one of those days.”
Gray, who pitched five scoreless innings in a win at Kansas City last week despite a lack of velocity and command, had his super-sharp stuff. The shadows around the mound and the glare off the green center-field wall made it even harder for the Astros to track his curveball.
“He’s a front-line starter,” said Alex Bregman, who drove in Dubón with a two-out single in the third after Dubón – who’s been filling in for the injured Jose Altuve at second base – started with a double.
Gray was irked at times last year during his debut with the Twins by the extra-careful approach to starting pitcher workloads, and he challenged his rotation teammates during spring training to last deeper into games this season.
He set a prime example with this performance. With an extra day of rest thanks to the pre-emptive postponement, Gray threw 98 pitches and only had one runner past second base.
“However you get the outs is however you get the outs, but at the end of the day, strikeouts are what you’re after,” Gray said. “Strikeouts and innings and wins, I guess.”
The Twins stranded four runners in scoring position against Astros starter José Urquidy, who was pulled with one out and two on in the sixth. Solano scored on a wild pitch by Bryan Abreu.
Twins pitchers have allowed one or zero runs in all seven starts this season, posting a 1.12 ERA in 40 1/3 innings. Gray and Pablo López have each logged an outing of at least seven innings, which Twins starters did a total of only 10 times in 2022.
“We’ve got, legitimately, five guys that can pick each other up,” Gray said.
The strikeouts by Gray were the most by a Twins pitcher since Francisco Liriano had 15 in 2012 against Oakland. The Astros struck out 16 times, tied for their second-most in the last six years.
Astros: LHP Blake Taylor (left elbow strain) has made three scoreless appearances on a rehab assignment for Triple-A Sugar Land. There are no lefties currently in Houston’s bullpen.
Twins: RF Max Kepler (right knee soreness) was on the bench for a third straight game but available for pinch-hitting. … Joey Gallo (right side soreness) left after five innings, replaced in RF by Nick Gordon.
Astros: RHP Luis Garcia (0-1, 5.40 ERA) starts Saturday.
Twins: RHP Joe Ryan (1-0, 1.50 ERA) takes the mound for the middle game of the series.