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Twins walk to shutout win over Astros

MINNEAPOLIS — One of baseball’s most patient teams all season, the Minnesota Twins kept it simple Saturday afternoon against the Houston Astros at Target Field, taking advantage of eight Astros walks and two errors in an 8-0 victory.

After a quick 1-2-3 first inning, things went off the rails for Houston starter Scott Feldman in the second, who retired only two batters in the inning before being lifted.

In between, he walked two, hit another with a pitch and was the victim of poor defense behind him, allowing three unearned runs in all.

Feldman, who allowed only one hit in 1⅔ innings, took the loss, dropping to 3-4.

“Those are high-level, impact errors,” Astros manager Bo Porter said. “Our defense didn’t help us. Scotty had trouble commanding the strike zone, but defensively, we     didn’t help ourselves making plays we usually make.”

The three-run second was all Twins right-hander Kyle Gibson needed, holding the Astros to three hits in seven shutout innings — the third time this season that Gibson has kept an opponent off the scoreboard for at least seven innings. Gibson struck out a season-high five batters, which tied a career best, and improved to 5-5.

“He was attacking the strike zone,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Got us through a big seven innings and made a few pitches when he had to. We needed that.”

Gibson has excelled at Target Field this season, where he improved to 4-1. He has not allowed a run at home in three games and 15⅓ innings, and his 1.54 ERA at home is the best in the American League.

“I definitely feel comfortable here,” Gibson said. “I feel like, in tough spots I’m able to make a pitch and get out of it where sometimes on the road I let it snowball a little bit and don’t make that pitch.”

The Twins bats provided Gibson with extra insurance in the fourth, taking advantage of five more free passes issued by the Astros.

Houston reliever Paul Clemens walked the first two batters before center fielder Aaron Hicks laid down a sacrifice bunt to move both runners into scoring position. Designated hitter Danny Santana cleared the bases with a double to the gap in left center.

Three walks, including one with the bases loaded, and a single by left fielder Josh Willingham plated two more runs and made it 7-0.

The offensive star of the game for Minnesota was Santana, a rookie playing in his 21st game in the majors. He had four hits and drove in five runs — both career highs — and is now hitting .373 for the season. In addition to his two-run double in the fourth, Santana had a two-RBI single in the second and an RBI single in the seventh.

Porter said Houston’s bullpen should be fine for today’s series finale, thanks to three innings of one-run relief provided by right-hander Jerome Williams. After seven walks through 3⅔ innings by Feldman and Clemens, Williams walked one and allowed three hits, throwing 48 pitches.

After Gibson departed, right-hander Jared Burton and lefty Caleb Thielbar worked a scoreless inning apiece to close out the game.

Late Friday

Astros 5, Twins 4

George Springer hit a two-run homer and Marwin Gonzalez and Matt Dominguez hit solo shots as Houston defeated host Minnesota in the opener of a three-game series.

Dallas Keuchel (7-3) pitched six shutout innings to win for the fifth time in six starts as the Astros recorded their sixth consecutive road victory. Keuchel struck out six and gave up five hits and two walks while Chad Qualls worked the ninth for his seventh save.

Twins starter Phil Hughes (6-2) allowed five runs and six hits in six innings as his six-game winning streak reached an end. Danny Santana hit his first major-league homer and Eduardo Escobar had three hits for Minnesota in a contest that was delayed for one hour, 21 minutes at the start due to rain.