MINNEAPOLIS (AP) After a dismal road trip, the Twins have bounced back with a time-tested formula -- pitching, defense and the longball.
Aaron Hicks had four of Minnesota's 17 hits, Miguel Sano homered twice and Mike Pelfrey picked up his first win since June as the Twins routed the Texas Rangers 11-1 on Wednesday night.
Last week the Twins went 1-6 on a swing through Toronto and Cleveland and fell below .500 for the first time since May 1. Their pitching staff gave up 60 runs in the seven games. But Pelfrey's strong seven innings backed up Kyle Gibson's six innings in a 3-2 win on Tuesday, giving the Twins hope of rejoining the Wild Card chase.
''We said all along our starting pitching's going to be the key to how far we can extend this thing and make it interesting,'' Twins manager Paul Molitor said. ''It snowballed negatively for us. Maybe we can (reverse) that. Gibson kind of set the tone and Mike continued it tonight.''
Pelfrey (6-7) had gone 0-5 with 6.22 ERA in his last 10 starts, but he was sharp, scattering four hits and one walk while striking out four.
''Pelfrey threw the ball very well,'' Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. ''Ball was coming out clean and hard for him tonight. He had great angle on everything and kept our guys on the ground. We did make some hard outs but really couldn't get anything going against him.''
Pelfrey benefitted from an early cushion, as Hicks got the Twins going with a leadoff homer in the first. He jumped on a 2-0 fastball from Nick Martinez (7-7) and drove it 432 feet off the facing of the upper deck in right-center for his seventh homer of the season.
In the third inning, Sano hit a 437-foot home run to the second deck in left-center. Sano's second home run drove in three in the fourth inning and reached the upper deck down the left field line. It gave the Twins a 7-0 lead.
''They're giving me a lot more offspeed here than Double-A, and I try to make adjustments,'' said Sano, who has seven home runs in 33 games since being called up from Double-A Chattanooga on July 2. ''Every at-bat I try to read the pitcher and try to look for my pitch. When they make a mistake I need to (make them) pay for that.''
The Rangers bunched three hits for a run in the sixth, but Twins left fielder Eddie Rosario threw out Shin-Soo Choo at the plate to end the threat. Hicks also made a diving catch in the gap to rob Bobby Wilson of an extra-base hit in the eighth.
Sano went 3 for 3 with a walk and a sacrifice fly, making a bit of team history on the way. With his first career multi-homer game, Sano drove in six runs, tying a franchise record for rookies that was set by Tony Oliva in 1964 and matched by Oswaldo Arcia two years ago.
Rangers: Josh Hamilton was scratched from the lineup about an hour before the game with a sore left knee, after taking batting practice and experiencing discomfort. Ryan Strausborger replaced Hamilton in LF and was inserted in the ninth spot, with Elvis Andrus, Rougned Odor and Bobby Wilson each moving up one position.
Twins: LHP Tommy Milone (strained left elbow) will throw in the bullpen Thursday and if all goes well will be activated from the DL when he's eligible Monday. But there's an opening for a starter Saturday against Cleveland. Kyle Gibson has volunteered to pitch on three days' rest, which Molitor said he didn't want to do. Someone could be called up from Triple-A Rochester instead.
Rangers: Rookie RHP Chi Chi Gonzalez was picked to start Thursday and fill the spot of Cole Hamels (sore left groin) in the rotation. Gonzalez, who posted a 2-4 record and a 3.74 ERA over seven starts prior to the All-Star break, will be recalled from Triple-A Round Rock. Someone on the staff will have to be sent down, but manager Jeff Banister declined to speculate about the options.
Twins: RHP Ervin Santana (2-3, 5.40 ERA) will take the mound for the series finale, looking to break a three-start losing streak. After winning his first two decisions with the Twins he's fallen on hard times, posting an 0-3 record and 10.49 ERA in 14 innings pitched. In his last outing, Santana gave up eight earned runs in just 2 1/3 innings at Cleveland. That was his shortest start since July 21, 2012, when he lasted 1 2/3 innings for the Angels against Texas.