HOUSTON (AP) — The Minnesota Twins got a solid start from rookie Griffin Jax, and Andrelton Simmons drove in two runs as they built a big lead early and held on for a 5-3 victory over the Houston Astros on Thursday night.
Jax (2-1) allowed three hits and one run in a career-high 5 1/3 innings for his first career victory as a starter. Jax, who has made just eight appearances and four starts in his career, picked up his first major league win June 25 while pitching in relief.
The Twins jumped on Houston starter Framber Valdez (7-3) early to take control before Houston cut the lead late.
Houston trailed by four with one out in the ninth when Michael Brantley legged out a single on a grounder. Yordan Alvarez then belted a home run off Danny Coulombe to the seats in right field to cut it to 5-3.
Coulombe walked Kyle Tucker with two outs and he was replaced by Alex Colomé, who got his fourth save thanks to a nifty catch by Jorge Polanco just behind second base on a ball hit by Martín Maldonado.
Rob Refsnyder and Miguel Sanó hit consecutive singles with one out in the second before Refsnyder scored on a single by Willians Astudillo. Refsnyder was activated from the 10-day injured list before the game after sitting out since June 14 with a hamstring injury.
Trevor Larnach hit a ground-rule double to score Sanó after the hit by Astudillo. A groundout by Simmons sent Astudillo home to extend the lead to 3-0.
Polanco made it 4-0 with an RBI single before Valdez finally got out of the inning by striking out Brent Rooker.
The Astros, who also got a home run from Jason Castro, are tied for the best record in the American League at 65-44 despite losing four of their last five. They fielded an unconventional lineup in this game, with Maldonado, who is normally a catcher, starting at first base for the first time since 2014 in place of Yuli Gurriel, who was out with an injury.
Utility player Aledmys Díaz had filled in for Gurriel in the last two games but played third on Thursday with Robel Garcia moving to shortstop for Carlos Correa, who got the night off for rest.
Jax had allowed just one hit when Castro opened Houston’s sixth with his homer over the short fence in right field to cut the lead to 4-1.
There was one out in the inning when Chas McCormick doubled off the wall in left-center to chase Jax. He was replaced by Caleb Thielbar, who retired Brantley and Alvarez to end the inning.
Valdez settled down after the tough second inning and lasted 6 2/3 innings while permitting six hits and four runs with seven strikeouts.
Simmons drove in another run with a bunt single to extend the lead to 5-1 in the eighth.
Twins: DH Josh Donaldson returned after being out of the lineup for the last five games with mild tightness in his right hamstring. ... Utility player Nick Gordon was optioned to Triple-A St. Paul to make room for Refsnyder on the roster.
Astros: Gurriel missed his third straight game with a stiff neck. ... 3B Alex Bregman (strained left quadriceps) will continue his rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Sugar Land on Friday night. He also is scheduled to play Saturday night could return after those two games.
Houston’s Zack Greinke (10-3, 3.65 ERA) will oppose RHP Bailey Ober (1-1, 4.94) when the series continues Friday night.
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Kristie Rieken , The Associated Press