MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Joey Meneses hit his first homer of the season, Keibert Ruiz singled in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning, and the Washington Nationals rallied past the Minnesota Twins 3-2 on a chilly Friday night.
Joey Gallo’s solo homer was one of just five hits for the Twins, who have scored two or fewer runs in seven of their 20 games.
“We have nobody but ourselves to really look at for the loss,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We’re putting a lot of pressure on the pitching staff. They’re throwing the ball pretty good overall. We’ve got to find ways to get a few more baserunners on and find ways, when they are out there, to bring a few more of them home.”
Minnesota led 2-0 before Meneses went deep in the seventh, a 409-foot drive to the bullpen in left-center that chased Twins starter Tyler Mahle. In the eighth, Griffin Jax (1-2) got the first two outs, but No. 9 hitter CJ Abrams sliced a ground ball past a diving third baseman Jose Miranda, who was playing well off the line.
After Abrams pulled up at second with a double, Lane Thomas delivered him with a single to left. Thomas took second on a wild throw home, and he scored easily on Ruiz’s hit.
That was enough for the Nationals bullpen. Erasmo Ramírez (1-1), Hunter Harvey and Kyle Finnegan each pitched a scoreless inning. Finnegan picked up his fourth save when he got Miranda to ground into a game-ending double play.
With a game-time temperature of 37 degrees — the coldest in Nationals history — both starting pitchers took control early. Mahle gave up three hits and one run over 6 1/3 innings, while Washington’s Trevor Williams allowed two runs over six innings.
Gallo led off the bottom of the third with his fifth home run of the season, a 386-foot blast to right that left the bat at 112.6 miles per hour.
Ryan Jeffers followed with a towering drive that fell between center fielder Victor Robles and right fielder Lane Thomas for a double. Jeffers moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Michael A. Taylor and scored on Max Kepler’s sacrifice fly.
Mahle, who was acquired from Cincinnati at the trade deadline last year but made just four more starts before being shut down with a shoulder injury, pitched into the seventh inning for the first time as a Twin.
“It felt good,” Mahle said. “I felt I easily could’ve finished the inning if I would’ve not fell behind Meneses and then gave up a homer. That’s tough to look back on. To me it kind of overshadows the whole outing for me, in my eyes. But it’s something build off of.”
Meneses hit 13 homers in 222 at-bats as a 30-year-old rookie last year and starred for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, batting .370 with two homers. But he had been off to a slow start for the Nats, entering the game with a .562 OPS.
“I’ve had a few hard-hit balls and some come close to the wall, but it’s definitely very satisfying to see it go over the wall,” Meneses said through a translator. “I try to stay focused and just make sure I make hard contact. That’s all I can do. But I don’t want to say I wasn’t thinking about it because you definitely think about hitting your first home run.”
Twins second baseman Jorge Polanco was activated from the injured list and started, his first action this year. Polanco had been sidelined with inflammation in his left knee, a lingering effect of an injury that kept him out for the final month of last season.
Polanco singled in his first at-bat and finished 1-for-4.
Meneses’ homer broke a 24 1/3-inning scoreless streak for the Nationals’ offense.
“You always feel a different vibe, different kind of energy when the hits start falling. The runs start scoring in and you kind of feed off of it. It definitely is very important to score some runs and feed off that energy,” Meneses said.
Nationals: Manager Dave Martinez said INF Ildemaro Vargas (left shoulder strain) could be ready for a minor-league rehab assignment if he gets through workouts this weekend without any setbacks.
Twins: RHP Kenta Maeda, who left Thursday’s game at Boston in the second inning after taking a line drive off his left ankle, expects to make his next start, Baldelli said.
Nationals: RHP Chad Kuhl (0-1, 8.59 ERA) will take the mound for the second game of the series on Saturday. He hasn’t pitched more than five innings in any of his three starts this season.
Twins: After signing a four-year extension with the Twins on Friday, Pablo López (1-1, 1.73) will look to continue his hot start.
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