MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota left-hander J.A. Happ lost his bid for a no-hitter when Jacob Stallings doubled with one out in the eighth inning, and the Twins beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-0 on Friday night.
Happ, in his first season with the Twins, was immediately removed by manager Rocco Baldelli with a two-run lead and replaced by Tyler Duffey.
The 38-year-old Happ (1-0) walked two batters, both in the second, and struck out three. He threw 95 pitches, with 51 strikes, and lowered his ERA after three starts to 1.69.
Duffey walked Wilmer Difo after the double by Stallings, but struck out Adam Frazier with runners at second and third to end the eighth.
Duffey retired the first batter in the ninth. Then Taylor Rogers took the last two outs for the save to finish the one-hitter, preserving just the second win for the Twins in their last 11 games.
Willians Astudillo and Jake Cave each hit their first home runs of the season for Minnesota, spoiling another stellar start by JT Brubaker (2-1). The right-hander finished seven innings with five hits and no walks allowed. His ERA actually crept up to 2.01. Brubaker had given up only one homer in his first three turns.
Happ, who left the New York Yankees and signed a one-year, $8 million contract this winter to join his seventh major league team, pitched a two-hitter for Houston against St. Louis on Aug. 30, 2010, for his career-low-hit complete game.
His bid for the no-no caught quite a break in the fifth, when Wilmer Difo hit a comebacker that Happ tried to scoop with his glove.
The ball ricocheted toward third base, where Happ hustled and used a slide to grab the ball in the grass. His throw, which likely would have been too late, went wide of first and into foul territory.
But instead of getting an error and allowing Difo to reach second base, Happ was off the hook when home plate umpire Jose Navas called Difo out for straying too far inside the base line and thus interfering with the throw. Pirates manager Derek Shelton argued to no avail.
The last no-hitter by a Twins pitcher was Francisco Liriano on May 3, 2011, at Chicago against the White Sox. Target Field, in its 12 seasons, has yet to host one.
The Twins placed Miguel Sanó on the injured list with a strained left hamstring before the game and promoted outfielder Alex Kirilloff among a handful of roster moves. Kirilloff, the team’s first-round draft pick in 2016 and one of the game’s top prospects, is a native of Pittsburgh.
“It’s just a cool experience, just to see the team you grew up rooting for in the other dugout,” said Kirilloff, who made his major league debut in the playoffs last year. “I’m not really rooting for them today. I don’t think anyone can blame me for that.”
Pirates: 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes had his inflamed left wrist examined Thursday and was “doing better,” manager Derek Shelton said.
Twins: SS Andrelton Simmons, the first of five players to land on the COVID-19 injured list, has cleared protocols and could return to action next week after ramping up his activity, Baldelli said.
Pirates: RHP Trevor Cahill (0-2, 9.69) pitches on Saturday afternoon.
Twins: RHP Michael Pineda (1-0, 1.00) takes the mound for the middle game of the series.
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