The Twins heeded his advice, as Mike Pelfrey tossed six scoreless innings in his return from the 15-day disabled list, and Brian Dozier hit a three-run homer to help lead Minnesota to a 6-0 win over Toronto on Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre.
It was a nice change of pace for the Twins, as they went 4-for-8 with runners in scoring position and recorded their fourth shutout of the year.
"We came here today and I told them we are going to have some fun and we are going to play the game," Gardenhire said. "And we came out and everyone was running around and hootin' and hollerin'. It was a little bit better atmosphere. I thought it needed to be said, but I think everyone understands and knew exactly what I was talking about."
Pelfrey, making his first start since June 18 after being placed on the DL with a back strain, gave up just three hits and walked three, with all three free passes coming in the first inning.
Pelfrey issued three straight walks with two outs in the opening frame, but was able to get out of the jam by getting Rajai Davis to ground out to second base to end the threat. The veteran righty settled down after that, as he retired 13 of the final 16 batters he faced to get his first win since May 5.
Pelfrey said he tweaked his left groin in the first, but it helped slow himself down. He said he doesn't expect the injury to affect him moving forward, given his success while dealing with it after the first.
"I think my tempo slowed down in the windup with a little pause," Pelfrey said. "I think in the first inning, I didn't have that pause, and I think that was because of the adrenaline. So I slowed my tempo down and I was a lot more effective."
Minnesota got on the board in the third with three runs against Toronto knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. Dozier brought home the first run with an RBI groundout before Jamey Carroll added an two-out RBI double. Joe Mauer then brought home Carroll with a single to center field.
Dozier later delivered the knockout blow with a three-run blast off Dickey with one out in the seventh. It was Dozier's eighth homer of the year and his first since June 21.
"I gave up another three-run home run, which has kind of been my bane this year, the home run ball," said Dickey, who has served up 19 homers in 19 starts. "That's not ordinary for me. If that slows down, I anticipate it being a lot better. But a three-run home run is tough to overcome when you've already given up three [runs]."
Dickey, who pitched with the Twins in 2009 before winning the National League Cy Young Award with the Mets last year, gave up six runs on seven hits and two walks over seven innings.
"They scored those three runs that one inning, but then he pretty much held them in check until that big three-run home run late," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said about Dickey. "We couldn't get anything going, that's the bottom line. We had that opportunity, it was really our only opportunity in the first, and came up empty."
Relievers Caleb Thielbar, Jared Burton and Glen Perkins combined to throw three scoreless innings to preserve the win for Pelfrey. Thielbar threw a scoreless seventh and has yet to give up a run in 17 career big league appearances. The last player to go 17 consecutive scoreless appearances to open a career was Joe Smith with the Mets in 2007.
"The bullpen came in and did its thing," Gardenhire said. "We put some runs together. Some big hits today. None bigger than Dozier's to add on, a big homer. But a good effort from the baseball team. You could see some smiles out there, which is a good thing."