MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- After getting hit hard during a four-game sweep in Chicago two weeks ago, the Minnesota Twins' young starting rotation appeared ready to fall apart.
Maybe not just yet.Scott Baker won for the first time in more than two months, Craig Monroe homered and the Twins beat Randy Johnson and the Arizona Diamondbacks 7-2 on Friday night.Minnesota starters have won four straight for the first time since Aug. 22-26, 2007, and appear to have straightened things out since the Chicago debacle."You can say that now, but we had a road trip where we got absolutely murdered," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We were good for a while, we had a tough road trip, but coming back, the guys are getting after it."Johnson is heading in the other direction for the Diamondbacks.The Big Unit hasn't won since May 18 and remains stuck at 288 career wins, tied with Tommy John for 24th. After an impressive May, Johnson has lost four straight starts for the first time since dropping five in a row from June 20-July 10, 1999."The last four games that I've pitched have been extremely frustrating," said Johnson, who is 0-4 with a 7.77 ERA in June. "I feel good. I'm just frustrated because in all those games it's essentially been one inning. Today it was an extremely bad inning and it took away any momentum we may have had."Johnson (4-5) gave up 11 hits and struck out a season-low one, but still pitched his first complete game since Aug. 24, 2006.He needed only 24 pitches to get through the first two innings, but his bad inning came in the third.The Twins built a 4-0 lead on a two-run single from Matt Macri, a sacrifice fly from Joe Mauer and an RBI single from Justin Morneau. Monroe capped the outburst with a line drive homer to left-center that caused Johnson to hang his head and tug on the bill of his cap."It just kind of snowballed before I could put the fire out," Johnson said.After allowing another run in the fourth, Johnson settled down to pitch four scoreless innings.Baker didn't have his best stuff, either, but he avoided any big innings."I wasn't too sharp tonight," Baker said. "I just made some pitches when I needed to. I also gave up some base hits when I had a chance to get through the inning quickly and that kind of prolonged some of the innings."Since returning from the disabled list on June 5, Baker (3-2) has looked sharp but hasn't had a win to show for it.The right-hander struck out seven and allowed seven hits over six innings to win for the first time since April 9. The only run he allowed came on Mark Reynolds' 16th homer to lead off the sixth.While the Twins rotation has looked sharp since returning home, Gardenhire is still preaching patience."To say they're locked in and it's going to be that way the rest of the year, you can't do that," he said. "That's baseball and we play a lot of games. It's just night in and night out hopefully we get a good performance each night."Macri injured his left calf running to first base and came out of the game after playing in the field in the fourth. He is listed as day-to-day.Orlando Hudson had three hits for Arizona and Reynolds drove in the Diamondbacks' other run as well, with an RBI groundout in the eighth.The loss is a tough way for Arizona to begin a nine-game road trip, especially after winning the final two games of a three-game set with Oakland at home."It seemed like the one inning was a little bit sloppy," Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin said. "They took advantage of it. They got some baserunners, got some hits, and got ahead early."
John Gibbons, fired as Toronto Blue Jays manager earlier in the day, is good friends with Gardenhire. Gardenhire said that Gibbons talked to him about the pressure he was feeling when the Jays played Minnesota in mid May. "He was hoping to hang on, but he knew it was going to be tough," Gardenhire said. "He knew it was coming. He's a good man, a good manager." ... Melvin had his outfielders take extra fly balls before the game to help them adjust to the Metrodome's tricky roof. Nonetheless, the Arizona manager will be sad to see the Twins leave the stadium after next season. "I remember getting some hits here," he said. "Whether it was above my .220 lifetime average, I'm not sure." ... Twins IF Nick Punto will play another game for Class A Fort Myers tomorrow and remains on schedule to return to the team on Tuesday in San Diego. Minnesota will get Michael Cuddyer back on Saturday. The OF missed Friday's game to be with his wife for the induced birth of their son, Casey. ... Chad Tracy was the DH for Arizona, but Melvin isn't sure who will DH the next two games. ... Arizona has been in first-place in the NL West since April 7. The 68-game stretch ties a franchise record.