BALTIMORE -- There was still some shaving cream left in his hair and on the brim of his cap after Wednesday's game, which was a sign of victory for rookie Matt Garza. Garza earned his first Major League win, pitching six strong innings, and received the customary shaving cream pie-in-the-face, courtesy of Joe Nathan, during the postgame television interview on the field. "It comes with the territory," Garza said.
Garza was backed by strong defense up the middle and in the outfield, as the Twins won, 4-1, at Camden Yards. With the win, the Twins kept pace in the American League Wild Card race, remaining a half-game behind the Chicago White Sox, who defeated Detroit. Minnesota picked up a game on the Tigers, and now trail the AL Central leader by seven games. "Garza was very good. He threw the ball fantastic for us," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I think you saw a more relaxed young man out there. He made pitches, located his fastball a lot better and didn't overthrow it." It was Garza's third start, and first away from the Metrodome. He did not give up an earned run in six innings of work, and yielded five hits while walking one. Garza continued to show progression: He gave up seven runs in 2 2/3 innings in his debut and allowed three runs in five innings in his last outing. Garza said he felt more relaxed throwing in the bullpen before the game and early in the contest, which allowed him to keep the ball down and throw strikes more easily. "We knew he was going to be fine. He just needed to shake off some jitters," said Michael Cuddyer. "He was rewarded for that." Of the 24 batters that Garza faced, only three reached scoring position. The Orioles did not have consecutive hits against the rookie, who retired five of the last six hitters he faced. "He threw good enough to get people out, but he had a pretty good defense behind him," Baltimore third baseman Melvin Mora said. "The only thing you can control is keep swinging. They had good defense, and that was the key of this game. If you have pretty good defense and pretty good pitching, you're going to win games." After giving up a leadoff single to Miguel Tejada in the fourth, Garza received help from his teammates. Jay Gibbons hit a ball to deep center field, which Torii Hunter didn't read well off the bat, but he recovered to make a leaping grab, and almost turned a double play on Tejada at first base. The next batter, Jeff Conine, hit a grounder back up the middle that Luis Castillo dove for. Castillo snared the ball, rolled on his back and tossed the ball to shortstop Jason Bartlett for the force play. Right fielder Michael Cuddyer saved a run in the fifth with a diving catch to end the inning on a low line drive, stranding a runner at third base. "It's a great feeling when you've got guys behind you who do what they do," said Garza about his defensive help. Minnesota's bullpen, which leads the Majors in ERA, shut down the Orioles for the last three innings. Rookie Pat Neshek pitched a perfect seventh, lowering his ERA to 0.81 in 16 appearances. Dennys Reyes got two batters out in the eighth, extending his scoreless-innings streak to 14 1/3, and Juan Rincon retired the final batter of the inning. Joe Nathan picked up his 26th save of the season in 27 opportunities. "Our bullpen came in and did the rest like they've been doing," Gardenhire said. "They shut the door." The Twins' bats provided Garza with enough support, as they battered Baltimore starter Rodrigo Lopez for 13 hits in six innings. With a runner on first and one out in the first inning, Joe Mauer grounded hard to first base. Kevin Millar couldn't field the ball cleanly and was only able to get one out, instead of turning a double play. Minnesota took advantage of that miscue, as Cuddyer hit an RBI double, and later scored on a Justin Morneau single. Eight of the nine starters had at least one hit, and Cuddyer and Bartlett each had three. Cuddyer doubled twice, driving in a pair of runs, and Hunter homered and doubled in consecutive innings.
Michael Gluskin is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.