Twins waste Louie Varland’s strong start, fall 6-1 to Padres

With two runners on in the sixth inning Tuesday and working through the San Diego Padres batting order a third time, the Minnesota Twins let young right-hander Louie Varland work through the jam.

Varland struck out $280 million-man Xander Bogaerts and third baseman Jose Miranda made a nifty play to handle a slow roller off the bat of Matt Carpenter and throw to first to end the inning, giving Varland a strong finish to his third start with Minnesota this season.

However, defensive mistakes in the seventh inning, and another dismal offensive game, led to a 6-1 loss to San Diego.

Bouncing back from the shortest start of his major league career, Varland allowed one run in six innings, surrendering five hits and two walks while striking out six. He lowered his ERA to 4.32 after coming off, perhaps, his worst outing in the majors when he gave up four runs in 4 2/3 innings in Chicago against the White Sox.

“We started the year with five major league starters and two guys in the minor leagues that we knew could come up and help us, he being one of those guys,” manager Rocco Baldelli said before the game. “He’s handled everything good. I’ve been very pleased with what I’ve seen from him.”

After Varland left a 1-1 game, the next inning unraveled on the Twins. Griffin Jax relieved Varland. Ha-Seong Kim reached on an error by first baseman Alex Kirilloff to start the seventh against Jax. Jax then walked No. 8 hitter Trent Grisham before the miscues ensued.

Kim stole third base with Miranda in playing the bunt. He scored on a sacrifice bunt by Austin Nola. Fernando Tatis reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second and went to third as catcher Christian Vázquez’s throw was offline and went into center field.

Tatis then scored after Jake Cronenworth walked. Following ball four, Vázquez tried to catch Tatis at third base. The throw hit Tatis and ricocheted away allowing him to score.

The final tally: two unearned runs, no hits, two stolen bases and three errors in the inning.

San Diego’s first trip to Target Field since 2017 meant Varland faced a star-studded lineup featuring Tatis, Manny Machado, Juan Soto and Bogaerts, who signed an 11-year, $280 million contract with the Padres in the offseason. Soto had four hits and Machado hit a towering 3-run homer to the second deck in left field in the ninth.

It also meant the return of former Minnesota designated hitter Nelson Cruz, who was not in Tuesday’s lineup but presented the lineup card to umpires before the game wearing the sombrero that the team uses to celebrate home runs.

“Bringing him in was probably one of our most important and best moves that we could have made,” Baldelli said of Cruz before the game. “I couldn’t have been happier to have him along for the ride. He was and is a very special guy.”

The Twins, who started the day with an MLB-worst batting average at .220, had six hits. Miranda’s double in the fourth led to their only run. Minnesota had runners on second and third in the ninth after pinch-hitter Donovan Solano’s double with one out but couldn’t score.

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