HOUSTON -- It was nearly the perfect homecoming for Twins right-hander Tyler Duffey.
Duffey, a Houston native, pitched well in front of roughly 30 friends and family members who had a cheering section near Minnesota's dugout, but it ended with an 8-5 loss to the Astros on Sunday afternoon at Minute Maid Park.
Duffey went 6 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on six hits and a walk, while tying a career high with eight strikeouts in his sixth big league outing. He left with two runners on and a 2-0 lead, only to see Trevor May give up five runs in the inning, including a go-ahead grand slam to Jed Lowrie.
But Twins manager Paul Molitor was still impressed by what he saw from the 24-year-old rookie, who has a 2.67 ERA over his past five starts after a rough debut in Toronto.
"I was happy for him," Molitor said. "We talked about it before the game, coming into your hometown. You could hear people cheering for him every time he left the field. He was pretty much in control for the time he was out there. We know when he has his good curveball he's tough on lefties and righties."
Duffey was also pleased by his outing, and said he never allowed nerves to get the best of him, as he was able to keep his focus on the task at hand. It also helped that Duffey, who pitched at nearby Bellaire High School and Rice University, had already pitched at the ballpark a handful of times as an amateur.
"Once you get out there on the field, it's game time, so you're just trying to stay focused and get people out," Duffey said. "It was fun. To pitch at home, that could never happen again. It just lined up. So it's just one of those things that was fun today."
Duffey's curveball was on point, as all eight of his strikeouts came on the curve. It allowed him to work his way out of several jams, including two instances where Jose Altuve doubled but couldn't score.
"It was back to where I want it to be," Duffey said. "They were swinging, and I used it to get some first-pitch strikes against a team that's pretty aggressive from top to bottom. I tried to use that to my advantage and tried to give us the best chance I could to win."
Unfortunately for Duffey, it didn't come with a happy ending, as he left in the seventh after giving up singles to Carlos Gomez and Luis Valbuena. May came in and walked pinch-hitter Preston Tucker on four pitches before allowing an infield RBI single to Altuve and the grand slam to Lowrie.
"A reliever's job is to pick up the guy before you, and Duffey pitched his butt off, so it's my job to get him out of trouble there at the end," May said. "It was just one guy I had to get out and I faced four and didn't get any out. So in short, I blew it and I'm looking forward to another chance to get out there."