The Twins finished their six-game road trip having won five games and both series. It was their first winning road trip of the season."We'd seen that he was very efficient with his pitches like he was tonight," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It was boom, boom. I looked up at one point in the fifth inning, he had 50 pitches. ... He's learning. He stayed on top of a lot of pitches. His sinker was really biting down. He was adding, subtracting with his pitches. He mixed it up, and it was a heck of a performance by him." With that type of command, Slowey eased through the majority of his outing, holding the Royals to just one run on six hits. He did not issue a single walk in the start and struck out six to pick up his second consecutive win. Kansas City's struggles continued as it suffered its 11th straight loss. "He was under control, hitting his spots," Royals third baseman Alex Gordon said. "He was coming after us and throwing strikes. You've got to give him credit, he was painting inside and outside." Gordon was the only hitter to tag Slowey for a run on the night. It came in the ninth inning. Slowey entered the ninth having thrown just 88 pitches, and with the possibility of completing his first career shutout. He gave up a one-out double to David DeJesus, which marked the first time a Royals hitter had advanced past first base all night. After Slowey recorded another ground-ball out, Gordon then belted a ball deep to center field for an RBI double. It scored DeJesus from second and ruined the shutout attempt. "Sure, I would rather pitch a shutout, but it didn't happen that way," Slowey said. "If only we would have had someone fast in center field, I feel like he would have been able to run that down," the pitcher added with a laugh. Carlos Gomez's speed certainly didn't hurt Slowey on the play and defensive help wasn't lacking for him on the night either. The Twins' infield turned two big double plays behind him. It was a much-needed boost for an area of the club's defense that had seen its share of trouble lately. "Alexi [Casilla] really played well at second base, he had a heck of a night," Gardenhire said. "We turned big double plays out there. Those are your friends and tonight, we got the outs we're supposed to get. We were crisp." Casilla did much more than just provide a solid glove. At the top of the order, he and Gomez combined to deliver seven hits. And along with No. 3 hitter Joe Mauer, the top three men in the order reached base a total of 11 times on the night. That production helped spark the club's offense, which tagged Royals starter Luke Hochevar for five earned runs over his 5 1/3 innings. And the big lead made it even easier for Slowey to cruise through his outing.
Not that Slowey even needed that many runs. Since returning from a biceps injury that sidelined him for about three weeks earlier this season, Slowey has shown improvement in each outing.That included his previous start in Detroit in which he held the Tigers scoreless for six innings. So following a stellar performance like the one he gave on Thursday, does the pitcher feel he can keep improving? "There is still room, look at the scoreboard," Slowey said with a laugh. A chance to improve might still be there for Slowey, but his catcher has been impressed by what he's seen so far. "He's got great command for how young of a pitcher he is," Mauer said. "The key tonight, just like it was for Nick [Blackburn] the other night, was using all of his pitches. Getting ahead of hitters, that's the biggest thing. Slowey used them all tonight and he threw well." Coming into the 2008 season, the biggest question mark surrounding the Twins was their young starting pitching staff. But the recent performances by Slowey and the other youngsters in the rotation -- Blackburn and Glen Perkins -- have turned that concern into a strength for the club. It's something that their teammates expected from those pitchers, even if others might not have. "I saw Slowey throw the ball in Spring Training, and I saw the other guy [Blackburn] throw the ball in Spring Training, and I know we've got a pretty good team," Gomez said. "Everybody talks about the other teams, but this team has everything."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less