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MLB: Kansas City Royals at Minnesota TwinsMay 27, 2024; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Joe Ryan (41) delivers a pitch against the Kansas City Royals during the third inning at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

Right-hander Ronel Blanco has developed into a reliable workhorse for the Houston Astros this season, logging less than six innings only three times in nine starts, excluding his ejection against Oakland on May 14.

En route to their eighth win in 10 games, the Twins executed a flawless game plan against Blanco on Friday to claim the opener of a three-game weekend set in Houston 6-1.

Minnesota made Blanco throw 95 pitches while recording only 14 outs. Among the 51 swings the Twins took against him, they fouled off 31 pitches and put 11 balls in play. That approach took a toll on Blanco, who allowed a season-high four runs in his shortest start outside of his three-inning stint against the Athletics in the May 14 game, after which he was suspended for 10 games because umpires found a foreign substance in his glove.

“We just executed to see the pitch up,” said Twins left fielder Willi Castro, who had a triple and two of the three walks against Blanco. “He’s a guy when he leaves the pitches down it’s a ball. so we were just trying to see him up and get a good swing. That was the plan.”

Right-hander Joe Ryan (4-3, 2.96 ERA) has the starting assignment for the Twins on Saturday. He allowed one run on four hits and one walk with nine strikeouts over seven innings while picking up his second consecutive win, a 6-5 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Monday. Ryan has eight quality starts in 11 outings this season.

Ryan is 1-2 with an 8.36 ERA over three career starts against the Astros. In his previous start against them, Ryan allowed five runs on four hits and three walks with six strikeouts over four innings in a 5-1 road loss on May 30, 2023.

Left-hander Framber Valdez (3-3, 4.34 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the Astros on Saturday. Valdez suffered his second consecutive loss while tossing his fourth quality start on Monday against the Seattle Mariners, allowing three runs on six hits and three walks with four strikeouts over six innings in a 3-2 setback.

Valdez is 3-1 with a 2.37 ERA over seven career appearances (four starts) against the Twins. In his previous start against Minnesota on Aug. 24, 2022, Valdez allowed one run on two hits and four walks with eight strikeouts over seven innings in a 5-3 home victory.

Contrary to the Twins, who recorded five extra-base hits among their six hits on Friday, the Astros managed only one extra-base hit among their six hits. It also marked the eighth time in nine games that the Astros scored all their runs in one inning, and Houston has totaled eight runs in its last six losses.

With four losses in the past five games, the Astros had a 15-14 record in May. Hoping to make up ground following a 10-19 start to the season, the Astros are instead treading water.

“Compared to the way we started our season, I think we’re heading in the right direction,” Astros manager Joe Espada said. “I think we’re playing really good baseball. The last five days we’re facing some pretty good pitching and we’re getting after it.

“Our effort is there, our approach is there; we’ve just got to continue to push. I think we’re playing better baseball than what we did a month ago.”

–Field Level Media

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