Twins held silent in opener of key road trip

Twins held silent in opener of key road trip

HOUSTON -- George Springer's return to the lineup took a back seat to the bat of Hank Conger.

Conger belted a fourth-inning grand slam, and Colby Rasmus had a two-run blast to back 7 2/3 scoreless innings from starting pitcher Collin McHugh and lead the Astros to an 8-0 win over the Twins in the series opener Friday night at Minute Maid Park.

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Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Twins reinstate Hicks, promote Darnell

Outfielder sidelined since Aug. 19 by hamstring strain

Twins reinstate Hicks, promote Darnell

HOUSTON -- The Twins reinstated outfielder Aaron Hicks from the 15-day disabled list on Friday, while also recalling left-hander Logan Darnell from Triple-A Rochester.

Hicks, who had been sidelined since Aug. 19 with a left hamstring strain, went 7-for-17 (.412) with a home run during a four-game rehab stint with Rochester. The 25-year-old was hitting .268/.318/.411 with eight home runs and nine stolen bases in 69 games with Minnesota before the injury.

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Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Santana looks to stay strong against Astros

Santana looks to stay strong against Astros

Six days after facing one another in Minnesota, Astros rookie Lance McCullers squares off against Twins righty Ervin Santana on Saturday in the second matchup of a three-game series at Minute Maid Park.

Santana got the best of McCullers on Sunday and turned in his finest start of the season, setting a season high for Twins starters with 10 strikeouts over seven scoreless innings to snap a six-start winless streak in Minnesota's 7-5 win.

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Chandler Rome is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Perkins won't join Twins on road after setback

Hughes takes step forward with bullpen session

Perkins won't join Twins on road after setback

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins pitchers Glen Perkins and Phil Hughes are both dealing with back injuries, but Perkins suffered a setback in his bout with back spasms, while Hughes took a step forward by throwing a bullpen session without any issues on Thursday.

Perkins, who has been dealing with lower back spasms since Aug. 23, made one-inning appearances on Friday and Tuesday, but woke up with the back issues returning on Wednesday. He won't go on the club's road trip that starts Friday in Houston, as he'll remain in Minnesota to receive treatment.

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Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Despite loss, Twins happy with homestand

Despite loss, Twins happy with homestand

MINNEAPOLIS -- With a playoff berth at stake, every game has taken on added importance for the Twins. And Thursday's is one they probably would like back. After being staked to a 4-1 lead in the third, the Twins watched as the White Sox scored five unanswered runs for a 6-4 victory.

But despite the loss, the Twins wrapped up a successful homestand in which they took four of six from the Astros and White Sox. They now leave Minneapolis 1 1/2 games behind the Rangers for the second American League Wild Card spot to embark on a critical road trip -- one that could be pivotal in determining their postseason fate.

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Betsy Helfand is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bullpen falters as Twins drop finale to Sox

Bullpen falters as Twins drop finale to Sox

MINNEAPOLIS -- Eddie Rosario connected on his first career grand slam, but the Twins couldn't complete a sweep of the White Sox as J.B. Shuck came through with a go-ahead two-run triple in the seventh to lift Chicago to a 6-4 win on Thursday afternoon at Target Field.

The White Sox rallied with a three-run seventh against reliever Casey Fien, keyed by Shuck's pinch-hit two-run triple with one out. Shuck scored on a sacrifice fly from Adam Eaton to give Chicago an insurance run. It snapped Minnesota's three-game win streak, as the Twins now trail the Rangers by 1 1/2 games in the chase for the second American League Wild Card spot.

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Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and listen to his podcast. Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Molitor rests Sano due to balky hamstring

Molitor rests Sano due to balky hamstring

MINNEAPOLIS -- If it were April, Miguel Sano might have landed on the disabled list. If the Twins were out of contention, they might have the option to rest their prized rookie for more than just a day. But with the calendar having flipped to September and the Twins in hot pursuit of the Rangers for the second American League Wild Card spot, Sano has proven too valuable to take out for an extended period of time, despite a nagging right hamstring strain.

Sano has been noticeably hampered on the basepaths the past few days. He had three hits on Tuesday, but a day later, answered bluntly when asked how his hamstring felt: "Bad." After a night game Wednesday in which Sano hit a home run and then couldn't do more than jog slowly down to first after hitting into a double play in his next at-bat, manager Paul Molitor opted to rest his designated hitter Thursday, although Sano was summoned as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning of the Twins' 6-4 loss to the White Sox, flying out as the potential tying run.

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Betsy Helfand is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Milone turns a corner in dominant outing vs. Sox

Milone turns a corner in dominant outing vs. Sox

MINNEAPOLIS -- Since coming off the 15-day disabled list on Aug. 16, Twins left-hander Tommy Milone has had trouble going deep into games, but he reversed that trend Wednesday night.

In his previous three starts since missing 14 games with a left elbow strain, Milone couldn't get past 5 1/3 innings, but was much better against the White Sox. He scattered three hits over seven scoreless innings with seven strikeouts in one of his best starts of the year to lead the Twins to a 3-0 win at Target Field.

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Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Sano, Plouffe provide the offense as Milone cruises

Sano, Plouffe provide the offense as Milone cruises

MINNEAPOLIS -- Miguel Sano hit his 15th home run of the season, a solo shot in the second inning, and Trevor Plouffe doubled with the bases loaded in the seventh to provide starter Tommy Milone with all the run support he needed in the Twins' 3-0 victory over the White Sox on Wednesday.

With the Rangers' win over San Diego, the Twins remain a game back of Texas for the second Wild Card spot in the American League. Minnesota has now won 10 of 12 and improved to 11-4 against the White Sox this season.

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Betsy Helfand is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Sano named AL Rookie of the Month

Sano named AL Rookie of the Month

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins third baseman/designated hitter Miguel Sano has been named the American League Rookie of the Month after leading all AL rookies in runs, home runs, RBIs and walks in August.

"It's great to be Rookie of the Month, but I want Rookie of the Year," Sano said with a laugh.

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Betsy Helfand is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Twins won't call up pitching prospect Berrios

Twins won't call up pitching prospect Berrios

MINNEAPOLIS -- Top pitching prospect Jose Berrios will not be called up to the Majors this season, Twins general manager Terry Ryan said Wednesday.

Berrios, ranked as the No. 23 overall prospect by MLBPipeline.com, pitched twice for Triple-A Rochester in front of Ryan this week. But Ryan said after thinking it over, he decided it would be best to shut down Berrios after the end of the Minor League season because he's nearing his innings limit.

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Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

6 players who will decide the AL Wild Card race

6 players who will decide the AL Wild Card race

With just one month left in the regular season, some division races appear all but wrapped up, and even the National League Wild Card spots look likely to go to the Pirates and Cubs -- barring a Cardinals collapse and a torrid streak from the Giants in an odd-numbered year. But there is at least one race that will go to the wire: The American League Wild Card.

While the top AL Wild Card spot will likely go to the team that finishes second in the AL East, the second Wild Card has five teams in the mix who are all within four games of each other. And with many of those clubs set to play against each other during the season's last month, it could come down to what amounts to a round-robin tournament, where only the strong will survive -- and earn a spot in the playoffs.

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Michael Clair is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @clairbearattack on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Limited by injury, Sano slows down HR trot

Hamstring strain forces rookie to take it easy on bases

Limited by injury, Sano slows down HR trot

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins rookie slugger Miguel Sano has been nursing a mild right hamstring strain since Thursday, and has been told by the Twins coaching staff to take it easy on the bases.

It was apparent Tuesday night, as he couldn't score from second on a single to right field in the second and took his time running the bases after launching a game-tying solo homer in the seventh in an eventual 8-6 win. Sano's homer left the bat at 105 mph and traveled an estimated 400 feet with a launch angle of 30 degrees, per Statcast™ data. But it also took him 28.53 seconds to run the bases, as Sano is trying to play it smart with his hamstring.

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Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

After Sano homers, Twins capitalize on errors

After Sano homers, Twins capitalize on errors

MINNESOTA -- Miguel Sano and Eduardo Escobar each had three hits and helped the Twins rally late in an 8-6 win over the White Sox on Tuesday night at Target Field. The victory left the Twins one game back of the Rangers for the second American League Wild Card after Texas beat San Diego by the same 8-6 margin.

Sano crushed his 14th homer -- a solo shot off reliever Nate Jones -- to tie the game in the seventh before the Twins took the lead in the eighth, keyed by a leadoff double from Escobar against lefty Zach Duke. Escobar scored on an error from Duke, as his throw to first on a bunt attempt from Kurt Suzuki sailed wide. Joe Mauer provided an RBI single before Trevor Plouffe added a sacrifice fly to give the Twins two insurance runs.

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Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Escobar raising the bar with everyday role

Goes 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles, RBI in victory

Escobar raising the bar with everyday role

MINNEAPOLIS -- When the Twins sent Danny Santana down on Aug. 1, manager Paul Molitor seemed committed to platooning Eduardo Escobar and Eduardo Nunez at shortstop based on matchups.

But Escobar has made that increasingly harder. Escobar carried over a hot August into the first day of September, going 3-for-4 in Tuesday's 8-6 victory over the White Sox and sparking the team's three-run, eighth-inning rally.

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Betsy Helfand is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Walker among prospects headed to AFL

Leads Double-A in homers, RBIs and strikeouts

Walker among prospects headed to AFL

MINNEAPOLIS -- Adam Brett Walker headlines the list of seven Twins prospects headed to Scottsdale, Ariz., to play in the Arizona Fall League this October.

Walker, the team's No. 10 prospect, according to MLBpipeline.com, was the team's third-round pick in the 2012 Draft. Known for his power, Walker, an outfielder, leads all of Double-A with 29 home runs and 101 RBIs. But he also leads the league with 187 strikeouts, 44 more than the next closest player. Nearly 40 percent of his at-bats this season have ended with a whiff.

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Betsy Helfandis an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Twins call up 5, including Santana and Vargas

Fryer, Achter, Tonkin also promoted; Berrios remains in Rochester

Twins call up 5, including Santana and Vargas

MINNEAPOLIS -- In their first wave of September callups, the Twins recalled infielder Danny Santana, first baseman Kennys Vargas and right-handed relievers A.J. Achter and Michael Tonkin from Triple-A Rochester. Minnesota also selected the contract of catcher Eric Fryer.

But just as notable, the Twins didn't bring up top pitching prospect Jose Berrios, who has a posted a combined 2.90 ERA with 170 strikeouts in a career-high 161 1/3 innings between Double-A Chattanooga and Rochester. Berrios, ranked No. 2 in the organization and the No. 23 overall prospect by MLBPipeline.com, pitched Monday in front of general manager Terry Ryan, allowing one run over six innings, but Ryan was non-committal about whether Berrios will be brought up.

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Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Determined Santana fuels Twins' Wild Card hunt

Determined Santana fuels Twins' Wild Card hunt

MINNEAPOLIS -- After struggling throughout August, Ervin Santana returned to form to throw seven scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts and the Twins got home runs from Eduardo Nunez and Miguel Sano to earn a 7-5 win over the Astros on Sunday afternoon at Target Field.

Santana's gem and the 7-0 lead the homers gave the Twins through eight innings helped Minnesota survive Houston's five-run ninth. With their eighth win in their last 10 games, the Twins kept pace with the Rangers, who also won Sunday to maintain their 1 1/2-game lead over Minnesota for the second American League Wild Card slot.

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Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Betsy Helfand is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Santana gets back on track with 10-K gem

Santana gets back on track with 10-K gem

MINNEAPOLIS -- During his bullpen session in St. Petersburg on Thursday, Twins right-hander Ervin Santana went back to the basics with pitching coach Neil Allen, having posted a 9.12 ERA over his previous five starts.

Allen had Santana work on a variety of drills aimed to help him regain his fastball command, and it paid immediate dividends, as Santana turned in perhaps his best outing of the season on Sunday against the Astros. He tossed seven scoreless innings with a season-high 10 strikeouts to lead the Twins to a series victory with a 7-5 win at Target Field.

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Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Hughes' back injury improving steadily

Hughes' back injury improving steadily

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins right-hander Phil Hughes continues to progress slowly from lower back inflammation, but he is expected to throw a bullpen session by the middle of the week.

Hughes, on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Aug. 10, threw without any issues for three straight days before taking Sunday off. He's expected to throw his first bullpen session before the Twins head to Houston on Friday, but he won't join the team on the road trip, as he'll continue to rehab at Target Field.

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Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Innings piling up for effective Twins relievers

Bullpen logs 5 1/3 scoreless during Saturday's loss to Astros

Innings piling up for effective Twins relievers

MINNEAPOLIS -- While the Twins have been playing well of late, winning seven of their last nine, it's mostly been in spite of their starting pitching.

Twins starters have failed to get deep into games, and it was again the case in a 4-1 loss to the Astros on Saturday night at Target Field. Right-hander Mike Pelfrey lasted just 3 2/3 innings, marking the eighth straight game for Minnesota that a starter failed to go at least six innings.

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Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Twins stifled by Fiers, Astros

Twins stifled by Fiers, Astros

MINNEAPOLIS -- Mike Fiers couldn't replicate the no-hitter from his previous outing, but tossed six-plus innings of three-hit ball to lead the Astros to a 4-1 win over the Twins on Saturday night at Target Field.

Fiers, who threw a 134-pitch no-hitter against the Dodgers on Aug. 21, was given extra rest and looked sharp against Minnesota. The right-hander allowed one run on three hits and three walks to improve to 2-0 with 2.25 ERA in five appearances with Houston since being traded from Milwaukee. But he left after taking a comebacker from Eddie Rosario off his hand in the seventh after hitting Trevor Plouffe with a pitch -- a non-factor in his exit, he said, as he was unhurt and already at 98 pitches.

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Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. Betsy Helfand is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

Twins' status changing from 'surprise' to 'contender'

Molitor, Sano keeping Minnesota in thick of AL Wild Card race

Twins' status changing from 'surprise' to 'contender'

Cubs manager Joe Maddon was asked before the season if he would have had to wait so long for his first manager's job if he had played a few years in the Major Leagues. He had a quick answer.

Maddon, a catcher who never played above Class A, said he would have been hired more quickly if he had played one day in the big leagues. He's probably right, but tell that to first-year Twins skipper Paul Molitor.

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Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Gibson outduels Kazmir as Twins blank Astros

Gibson outduels Kazmir as Twins blank Astros

MINNEAPOLIS -- Kyle Gibson tossed 5 1/3 innings to get his first win since July 12 while helping the Twins earn a 3-0 victory over the Astros on Friday night at Target Field.

The Twins have won seven of eight and remain a half-game behind the Rangers for the second American League Wild Card spot, while the Astros remain five games ahead of the Angels in the AL West.

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Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. Betsy Helfand is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Perkins fires scoreless 7th in healthy return

Perkins fires scoreless 7th in healthy return

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins closer Glen Perkins returned to action after missing three games with lower back spasms, tossing a scoreless seventh inning in Friday night's 3-0 win over the Astros.

Perkins, who first felt the back spasms while warming up prior to his appearance against the Orioles on Sunday, was eased back into the bullpen, as he pitched in the seventh inning for the first time since May 2, 2012. He fared well in his return, picking up two strikeouts and getting an infield popup.

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Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Gibson looking to build off 1st post-break win

Gibson looking to build off 1st post-break win

MINNEAPOLIS -- Kyle Gibson was undoubtedly the Twins' best starter in the first half, posting a 2.85 ERA in 18 outings, but he hasn't looked the same in the second half.

Gibson, though, took a step forward on Friday night, tossing 5 2/3 scoreless innings to lead the Twins to a 3-0 win over the Astros. It was his first victory since his final start of the first half on July 12, as he entered 0-3 with a 7.22 ERA in seven outings since the All-Star break.

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Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.