CHICAGO -- Phil Hughes, making his first start since June 9 of last season, allowed one run over six innings and the Twins won their fourth straight to start the 2017 season with a 3-1 victory over the White Sox Friday night at Guaranteed Rate Field. It's the Twins' first 4-0 start since they won the first four games of their 1987 World Series championship season.
Hughes missed the final four months of the '16 season after undergoing surgery due to thoracic outlet syndrome. He allowed three hits with one out in the first inning, including Jose Abreu's RBI single, but was almost untouched from that point forward. Hughes fanned three and didn't issue a walk.
"Especially with the starts we've gotten off to the last few years, a 4-0 start is a step in the right direction," Hughes said. "For me personally, I felt like last year was tough, mentally and physically. So I'm happy to start off this year on a good note."
The White Sox could have gained early control of this contest if not for great Twins' outfield defense. Byron Buxton, who plays a shallow center, took away extra-base hits from both Tyler Saladino and Cody Asche in the first, a frame in which the White Sox scored once. The hit probability on Saladino's blast was 71 percent and it jumped to 82 percent on Asche. The catch probability was 76 percent and 63 percent, respectively.
"We might've won it with our defense in the first inning, particularly our center fielder," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "The first play of the game and with two outs making that catch he did. It's hard to believe he outran that ball and got to the wall so quickly."
In the fifth, Max Kepler made a diving catch near the right-field line on Tim Anderson's two-out bid for extra bases. If the ball had gotten by Kepler, the speedy Anderson had a chance for an inside-the-park homer. It had a catch probability of 58 percent.
Derek Holland made his debut for the White Sox and was solid over 6-plus innings. He struck out five and walked one, hitting 94 mph with his fastball, but allowed three runs (two earned) and took the loss.
"It was a good first start, a good way to get things going," Holland said. "I did everything I could. The guys were out there battling and making plays. Next time we just have to finish. That's what we will do."
Minnesota has outscored its opponents by a 24-6 margin to start the season. The bullpen has yet to allow a run in 13 innings.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Timely hitting: There wasn't a great deal of offense for either team Friday, but Minnesota got the hits when it needed them. With one out in the sixth and the game tied at 1-1, Miguel Sano laced a double off of Holland to right-center and scored Robbie Grossman with the go-ahead run. Grossman opened the inning with a single and had two hits on the night.
"It was a great at-bat," Molitor said. "Just to foul off as many pitches as he did. He stayed on that ball on 3-2 and used the whole field."
E-9: Minnesota might have saved this contest with its airtight outfield defense, but a big defensive miscue by right fielder Avisail Garcia cost the White Sox in the fourth. With Grossman on third and one out, Sano hit a fly ball to right that didn't appear deep enough to score the run. Garcia moved on it, while first baseman Abreu and second baseman Saladino raced out, but the ball hit Garcia's glove and fell to the ground for an error, allowing the game-tying run. It was Garcia's second missed catch of the year and had a 98 percent catch probability per Statcast™.
"Actually Avi got to the ball," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. "it just deflected off of his mitt or he snow-coned it a little bit. He ran a long ways and just dropped it."
"I don't think he's too worried about that, neither am I. I think that those two plays, the play today, and the play the other day he lost the ball right off the bat, it was in twilight. That happens. They happen to be in consecutive days, but I'm not worried about his defense." -- Renteria on Garcia
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Buxton's catch to end the first and Kepler's catch to end the fifth were both rated as three-star plays by Statcast™. For context, Buxton and Kepler both make three-star plays look routine, as Buxton was 19-for-21 on three-star opportunities last year and Kepler was 13-for-17.
The White Sox lost a challenge in the seventh, when Chris Gimenez doubled down the left-field line with Eduardo Escobar at first, but a fan interfered with the ball. Escobar, though, was awarded home by the umpires, as it was deemed he would have scored, despite the interference, and the White Sox challenged the play, only for it to be confirmed.
WHAT'S NEXT Twins: Rookie left-hander Adalberto Mejia is set to make his second career start Saturday against the White Sox at 1:10 p.m. CT. Mejia surprisingly won the competition to be Minnesota's fifth starter with a strong spring.
White Sox:Miguel Gonzalez makes his season debut for the White Sox. His start was moved back by a day due to Wednesday's postponement with the Tigers. First pitch for the right-hander is 1:10 p.m. CT, as the White Sox play their third day game out of four 2017 contests.