Buxton, Farmer hit 3-run homers as Twins top Astros 9-6

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — There’s a simple way to sum up Minnesota’s early success: swing and a miss.

The Twins secured a series win against defending champion Houston with more hard-to-hit pitching — and a couple of their own big hits.

Byron Buxton and Kyle Farmer hit three-run homers for the Twins in a 9-6 victory on Saturday over the Astros, who struck out 17 times for a two-game total of 33.

“I just let them do their thing and just try and catch every ground ball that comes my way,” said Farmer, who didn’t have a single play to make at second base.

Christian Vázquez had two RBI singles, Trevor Larnach had two hits and an RBI and Joe Ryan (2-0) recovered from Yordan Alvarez’s grand slam to win his second straight start.

The Astros were held hitless in seven of nine innings and fell to 3-6. The Twins, who lost all six games to the Astros last season by a combined 36-11, improved to 6-2.

“We’re not giving ourselves a chance. A lot of it is their pitching and some of it is Christian Vázquez who knows our team pretty well,” said Astros manager Dusty Baker, who had Vázquez at catcher last season after a late-summer trade.

The Astros had the second-fewest strikeouts in the major leagues in 2022. Their 17 whiffs on Saturday were tied for the third-most in franchise history, according to Sportradar data, and the most in five years. Their lineup missing Jose Altuve and Michael Brantley to injuries has struggled to get on base.

“It’s very shocking,” Baker said, “but we’ve got to get on those breaking balls.”

Jeremy Peña hit a two-run homer in the ninth off Jovani Moran, who left two on for Jhoan Duran with two outs. Duran retired Yainer Diaz — the tying run — with a three-pitch strikeout for his second save.

The damage had been done by the Twins with a four-run eighth against Ronel Blanco highlighted by Buxton’s first homer of the season. The Twins went deep only six times in their first seven games.

“Just because it ain’t happened don’t mean it’s not going to happen,” Buxton said. “Once it starts, it’s kind of that rapid effect to where you get in that groove and more seems to come quickly.”

Astros reliever Seth Martinez (1-1) took the loss on Vázquez’s tiebreaking single in the sixth that followed a double by Farmer, who had three hits after a game-winning single in the 10th inning on Friday. Farmer hit a three-run shot in a four-run second against Astros starter Luis Garcia, who went four innings.

Alvarez delivered his third career slam in the third, a 116 mph drive over the limestone facade and into the plants in right field that was measured by MLB’s Statcast data as the third-hardest hit in baseball this season. Alvarez moved into the major league lead with 14 RBIs.

The Twins debuted at Ryan’s request new cream-colored jerseys with dark blue lettering and “Twin Cities” across the front, one of four new uniform sets that emerged from a major offseason makeover.

The more important upgrade was on the rotation, with the acquisition of Pablo López and the return of Kenta Maeda from injury. Twins starters have the best ERA in the major leagues at 1.75.

Thanks to Alvarez’s swing on the first pitch from Ryan, their seven-game streak of one or zero runs allowed ended with a smash. But Ryan snapped right back by retiring the next 11 batters in a row.

“How off balance teams have been against our pitching staff just shows how much better we are,” Buxton said.