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Astros shoot past Twins

Minnesota Twins first baseman Joe Mauer hits a single during the first inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park in Houston on Tuesday. The Twins lost 10-4. Troy Taormina / USA Today Sports

HOUSTON — Chris Carter probably doesn’t know what he’s done. And he surely doesn’t care.

Carter, the powerful Houston Astros designated hitter, walloped two home runs Tuesday night off Minnesota Twins starter Yohan Pino, almost certainly consigning the 30-year-old rookie back to Class AAA Rochester after 10 big-league starts. Jake Marisnick also homered for Houston, and the Astros defeated the Twins 10-4.

Pino’s status was shaky after posting a 4.59 ERA in his first nine starts. Right-hander Ricky Nolasco is expected to return to the starting rotation on Friday, and the Twins appear committed to giving Trevor May, another rookie, at least another start or two.

Would the Twins keep six starting pitchers around? “I won’t say there’s no chance,” manager Ron Gardenhire said, “but there’s no chance. Not right this second, no.”

About as much chance of reining in Carter these days, in other words. The right-handed slugger slammed a homer off Tommy Milone on Monday, too, and now is just one home run from his career high and two away from becoming the first Astros player to hit 30 since Carlos Lee in 2007.

Pino whiffed Carter in the first inning, and pitched well for two innings. But when Jack Marisnick broke the spell with a line-drive home run to left in the third, things quickly started going badly for the Twins’ and their rookie pitcher. Carter was ready for him later that inning, launching an 89-mph fastball off an advertising sign high above the seats in left field, a two-run blast. Two innings later, with Pino already trailing 4-1, Carter finished off the right-hander, nailing a first-pitch slider and lining it to the front row of the Crawford Boxes in left-center. That was a three-run homer — giving Carter six multi-home run games this season — and ended Pino’s outing after just 4⅓ innings. Pino allowed seven hits, seven runs and he struck out seven as well.

Oswaldo Arcia, sidelined for three days by soreness in his lower back, returned by lifting a pitch just over the right-field fence in the second for his ninth home run of the season (he added an opposite-field shot in the ninth inning). But the Twins could do little else against wiry Houston starter Collin McHugh, who retired nine batters in a row at one point. McHugh, who has a 1.40 ERA in three starts this month, gave up only four hits in his six innings, striking out three and walking none.

With the Twins trailing 7-1, Gardenhire chose to give May a low-pressure outing from the bullpen in hopes of calming the nerves that produced seven walks in just two innings in his major league debut last Saturday. May pitched the sixth, and needed 21 pitches to get through it, allowing two runs on three hits. He went to a 3-2 count on his first batter, then threw a fastball out of the strike zone that Matt Dominguez mercifully swung at, grounding out and setting a better tone for the rookie.

A double and two singles produced the runs, but May struck out Grossman on another 3-2 pitch — a 92-mph fastball at the knees — to record his first career strikeout. And in the seventh inning, the rookie right-hander needed just eight pitches to retire the Astros, even getting Carter on a routine fly ball to center, but he gave up another run in the eighth, leaving his major league ERA at 12.46.