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Twins back strong outing by Gonsalves for 8-2 win

Minnesota Twins first baseman Tyler Austin (31) is congratulated by teammates after scoring in the fourth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park in Detroit on Sept. 19, 2018. Rick Osentoski / USA TODAY Sports1 / 2
Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Stephen Gonsalves (59) pitches in the second inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park in Detroit on Sept. 19, 2018. Rick Osentoski / USA TODAY Sports2 / 2

DETROIT — Stephen Gonsalves seems to be getting the hang of this primary thing.

Staked to a four-run lead after watching the first inning from the bullpen, the Twins’ rookie left-hander picked up his first big-league victory with six scoreless innings in Wednesday afternoon’s 8-2 romp over the Detroit Tigers. He became the sixth Twins pitcher to reach that milestone this season, joining Fernando Romero, Gabriel Moya, Matt Magill, Kohl Stewart and Aaron Slegers.

With that, Gonsalves received the obligatory beer shower from his teammates in the visiting clubhouse at Comerica Park.

“It was amazing,” Gonsalves said. “It’s a dream come true.”

Winning their fourth straight as they clinched the season series with the Tigers, the Twins also recorded their sixth sweep of the year. They are 10-6 against manager Ron Gardenhire’s fifth straight 90-loss team, dating to 2011 with the Twins.

Running his string of innings to nine without an earned run — all as the primary — Gonsalves permitted just two baserunners: a two-out walk to JaCoby Jones on a full count in the third and Jones’ line single to left in the sixth.

Gonsalves, who got nine swing-and-miss strikes, let the count reach three balls just twice. He fanned four, threw strike one to 11 of 19 batters and was in total control in his 78-pitch outing in relief of Moya.

His fastball velocity up a couple of ticks at 90-91 mph, Gonsalves credited a talk with pitching coach Garvin Alston.

“It’s learning to trust your stuff,” Gonsalves said. “That’s what we did today. The last 3-4 outings we were talking mechanics and we just said, ‘You know what, don’t even worry about that. Just throw the ball as hard as you can over the plate,’ and that’s what we did.”

Gonsalves would look up at the scoreboard radar reading from time to time. Whenever he saw 87 mph on his fastball, he’d hump back up and make sure he fired down the mound toward his target.

“I was just really focused on throwing the ball as hard as I could,” he said.

Working his third straight scoreless outing as the opener, Moya worked around a hit batter and a bad-hop single in an 18-pitch first.

Gonsalves, 24, was making his sixth big-league outing after being called up from Triple-A Rochester on Aug. 20. He entered with 17 walks and just 10 strikeouts in 15 1/3  big-league innings.

His earned-run average dropped from 9.39 to 6.75 with Wednesday’s handiwork.

“For anybody who comes up here and tries to get their feet on the ground and it doesn’t go particularly well at the beginning, there’s always that doubt factor,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “You’re battling the mental part of the game. From that aspect, having a lead was probably a good thing for him.”

As for the primary role, Gonsalves said he tweaked his routine to give him an extra 10 minutes of long toss in the outfield.

“Right after the anthem and right before first pitch,” Gonsalves said. “I’m only sitting for five or 10 minutes. It’s kind of like spring training. You’re waiting for a bullpen and there are so many guys, you just have to stay loose.”

Tyler Austin drove in two, giving him five runs batted in over the past two games. Austin, playing first base, also saved back-to-back throwing errors with a pair of leaping grabs in the fourth and made a solid read on a backdoor play to score on Mikie Mahtook’s errant throw in the top half of that inning.

The all-Venezuelan bottom third of the Twins’ batting order (Ehire Adrianza, Willians Astudillo and Gregorio Petit) piled up five hits, five RBIs and three runs. Moya also hails from Venezuela.

Now Gonsalves, a fourth-round pick in 2013 out of a San Diego high school, just has to determine who will get the game ball from his first big-league win. He had promised it to his paternal grandfather and biggest fan, a kindly man everyone called “Father John,” but he died at 86 on Dec. 1, 2015.

“I promised my ‘Vuvu’ back in the day, so we’ll see,” Gonsalves said. “I gave my dad the first strikeout and then my grandma the first out.  We’ll have to figure out where this first one goes.”