Rookie right-hander Louie Varland recorded the second scoreless start of his career while veteran first baseman Donovan Solano produced a multi-RBI game as the Minnesota Twins won the rubber match of their three-game series with the host Houston Astros 8-2 on Wednesday.
Varland (3-1) twirled a career-best seven innings and dominated throughout, allowing four hits and one walk while notching five strikeouts. He needed just 86 pitches to stifle the Astros in his first scoreless start since he blanked the Chicago White Sox over five frames on Oct. 5, 2022.
Varland faced the minimum through three innings and retired Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker with Jeremy Pena in scoring position in the fourth. Pena advanced to second base again in the sixth when he stroked a two-out single prior to an Alvarez walk, but Varland induced an inning-ending grounder from Alex Bregman to escape unscathed.
Astros rookie right-hander Hunter Brown (5-2) appeared poised to match Varland pitch for pitch until the bottom fell out from beneath him in the third. He struck out five of the first six batters he faced and appeared to strike out Max Kepler for his fifth consecutive strikeout to open the third.
Kepler was heading back to the dugout before being summoned back to the plate, with his swinging third strike ruled a foul ball. Kepler followed with a single and so too did Willi Castro before Michael A. Taylor walked to load the bases with no outs. Brown rallied with a strikeout of Edouard Julien, but Solano delivered a two-run single to right that keyed the three-run frame.
Brown seemed to right himself with a pair of strikeouts to cap the fourth inning, but he did not survive the fifth, departing with a pair of runners on and two outs. Both scored when Ryan Jeffers smacked a two-run double off Astros left-hander Parker Mushinski, closing the book on Brown, who allowed five runs on six hits and two walks while recording eight strikeouts.
Solano struck again with a two-run double that extended the Twins' lead to 7-0 in the sixth. He finished 2-for-4 with four RBIs. Alex Kirilloff, Jeffers and Castro also posted two-hit games for the Twins, who snapped a four-series losing skid.
Jake Meyers and Yainer Diaz belted back-to-back homers off Twins reliever Jorge Lopez in the eighth.
--Field Level Media