MINNEAPOLIS -- Left-hander Tommy Milone threw seven solid innings, outdueling Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez, to lead the Twins to a 3-1 win on Wednesday night at Target Field, snapping a five-game win streak for St. Louis.
After losing nine of their previous 11 games, including two straight in St. Louis, the Twins needed a strong start from Milone, and it's exactly what they got. Milone, who faced the minimum in six of his seven innings, gave up just one run on five hits and no walks to pick up his first win since April 16. The lone run he gave up came in the second on an RBI single from Jason Heyward.
Martinez earned the hard-luck loss after surrendering two runs (one earned) on five hits and three walks over 6 2/3 innings. He was hurt by an errant pickoff throw in the fourth that scored a run and set up a go-ahead sacrifice fly from Eduardo Nunez.
"All three games have been very tight, and little things can turn out to be the difference-makers," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "We got a break on the errant throw to first, or the misplay. That was a two-run inning for us. Tommy did a nice job and minimized the inning after Heyward's RBI, and gave us seven strong innings."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Twins capitalize on errant pickoff: With runners at first and third with one out in the fifth, Martinez threw over to first base, but Mark Reynolds couldn't handle the throw, allowing Trevor Plouffe to score and Eddie Rosario to reach third base. Nunez scored Rosario with a sacrifice fly to center to give the Twins a 2-1 lead.
"Giving extra bases, giving outs, is not a good recipe," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
Cardinals score early: St. Louis got on the board early, with Reynolds and Randal Grichuk leading off the second with consecutive hits. After a Yadier Molina strikeout, Heyward delivered, driving in the Cardinals' lone run of the night. The Cardinals had an opportunity to inflict more damage, but Milone struck out Peter Bourjos and Pete Kozma, stranding two runners in scoring position.
"Little bit of a chance there to do a little bit more, but also, we gave them a little bit, too," Matheny said. More >
Perkins records four-out save: With the Twins clinging to a one-run lead with a runner at second base and two outs in the eighth, Molitor decided to bring in his closer in Glen Perkins The lefty got Kolten Wong to fly out to left to end the eighth and threw a scoreless ninth to improve to a perfect 23-for-23 in save opportunities this season.
"When Mollie talked to me about it in December and asked how I felt, I said I wanted to do it," Perkins said of four-out saves. "I want to win. I don't want to be in that bullpen if something happens and I don't pitch. So I'm all for it."
Choate comes through: The Cardinals' bullpen entered Wednesday's game with a sub-2.00 ERA. In the seventh, Randy Choate came through, helping keep the game in check. After Martinez loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh, manager Mike Matheny brought in Choate, who promptly struck out Twins first baseman Joe Mauer on a slider.
With Rosario at third base after a two-out triple off reliever Matt Belisle in the eighth, Nunez hit a chopper to shortstop and was ruled out at first base by umpire Paul Nauert. But after a replay review, it was determined that Reynolds pulled his foot off the bag, so the call was overturned and the Twins got an insurance run.
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Perkins entered the season with just three career saves of more than three outs, but has matched that total this year. He also recorded four-out saves against the A's on May 7 and the Red Sox on May 26. He's the first Twins closer with three saves of more than an than inning since Joe Nathan in 2007.
WHAT'S NEXT Cardinals:Jaime Garcia gets the ball for the Cardinals as they close out their four-game stretch with Minnesota. Garcia is 2-3 with a 2.06 ERA since returning in May from last year's season-ending shoulder surgery. He hasn't allowed a walk since his first start of the season.
Twins: Right-hander Mike Pelfrey gets the start in the series finale on Thursday afternoon at 12:10 p.m. CT. Pelfrey is coming off his worst outing of the season, as he gave up eight runs on 11 hits over 3 2/3 innings against the Rangers on Saturday. But he's still been solid this year, with a 3.18 ERA in 12 starts.
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. Betsy Helfand is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.