MINNEAPOLIS -- Charlie Blackmon and Gerardo Parra both homered, while Ian Desmond came through with a go-ahead RBI single off Phil Hughes as part of a four-run sixth to lift the Rockies to a 7-3 win over the Twins in the Interleague series opener on Tuesday night at Target Field.
Desmond snapped a 3-3 tie with a single off Hughes in the sixth, before Colorado tacked on three more insurance runs, including a two-run shot from Blackmon with two outs. It helped the Rockies improve to a Major League-best 12-5 on the road, which is their best start away from Coors Field in franchise history.
It was a matchup of first-place clubs -- the Rockies in the National League West, the Twins in the American League Central. And don't tell Desmond, who has been part of division winners three of the last five years between the Nationals and Rangers, about how early in the season it is.
"I keep on hearing, 'It's early stuff,'" Desmond said. "Back in Washington, we were like 13 games back of the Atlanta Braves in April or mid-May, and we could never overcome it.
"These games, to us, matter, and I don't think it needs to be discredited. Every win is important, I don't care if it's April, May or September."
Blackmon stayed hot, going 3-for-5 with three RBIs. He now has eight hits in his last 12 at-bats. Parra also smacked a solo homer in the fourth off Hughes, who mostly struggled. The Twins' right-hander allowed five runs on eight hits over five-plus innings, falling to 4-2 on the season with a 5.23 ERA.
"Hughes wasn't trusting his changeup again, which has happened his last couple starts," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "I think the home run, he tried to backdoor a cutter, but it came over the inner third. But he gave us a chance. His numbers aren't great when you look at them on the whole, but in all but one, we've been in the game."
It was enough offense for Rockies left-hander Kyle Freeland, who went six frames and worked around three runs on five hits and four walks to register his fifth straight quality start. The Twins scored twice in the second on a pair of RBI doubles from Jason Castro and Brian Dozier before getting a solo homer from Byron Buxton in the fourth.
"He battled," Rockies manager Bud Black said of Freeland. "Too many balls mid-thigh to the letters. He really didn't pound the zone like we'd seen Kyle. But there were a couple of key pitches, and he made them."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Freeland gets big double play: The Twins threatened with one out and runners at the corners in the fifth after Freeland walked Dozier and Robbie Grossman on a combined 17 pitches to open the inning. But after Miguel Sano flied out to center, Freeland went to his favorite weapon, the hard, high-and-inside fastball, and got Kennys Vargas to escape the inning with a double play to keep the game tied.
"If they see a fastball up in the zone but in, their eyes are gong to light up and they're going to want to turn and burn on it," Freeland said. "If you're able to get in on his hands, where he can't fire them quickly, you can get a good out."
Two-out hits key in sixth: After Desmond's RBI single gave the Rockies the lead in the sixth, Colorado tacked on three insurance runs with two outs against Twins reliever Tyler Duffey. Tony Wolters brought home Desmond with a double to right, keyed by a misplay from Grossman in right field that allowed Desmond to score from first. Blackmon followed with a two-run homer that extended the Colorado lead to 7-3. Blackmon's ninth homer of the year left the bat at 104.9 mph at a high launch angle of 40 degrees, traveling a projected 395 feet, per Statcast™.
"I understand those things can speed up on you. But I guarantee you, he'll never do that again. Put it that way. Thankfully for them, it didn't come back to get them." -- Twins catcher Chris Gimenez, who reached first on a strikeout that would've ended the game in the ninth, as Wolters didn't throw to first on a ball that hit the dirt, forcing the Rockies to bring in closer Greg Holland with two outs
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Buxton's homer extended Minnesota's streak to 16 straight games with a homer, tying a franchise record set in 1979. It also snapped Freeland's streak of 34 innings without allowing a homer.
HEAD BACK IN THE GAME
Wolters made an impact in his return from a concussion suffered May 2. Hitting ninth, he rolled a fielder's choice grounder to drive in a run in the second and doubled in the Rockies' big sixth inning. Defensively he erased Eddie Rosario on an attempted steal of second to end the fourth with the score tied at 3 and made a sliding catch of a popped-up Jorge Polanco bunt in the sixth.
WHAT'S NEXT Rockies: Right-hander German Marquez, who held the Cubs hitless for six innings and scoreless on three hits through eight in his last start, will face the Twins in the second game of the series Wednesday at Target Field at 6:10 p.m. MT.
Twins: Right-hander Ervin Santana (6-1, 1.50 ERA) is set to start against the Rockies on Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Santana has been one of the best pitchers in baseball this season and is coming off a strong start, throwing seven scoreless innings against the Indians.