MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The only way Aaron Hicks can top these highlight-show catches in center field for Minnesota is to follow them by hitting a home run.
That's precisely what he's done, three times already this season. Despite the .165 batting average, this rookie has shown plenty of flash and potential.
Hicks homered again and made another run-saving grab, helping Samuel Deduno and the Twins beat the Milwaukee Brewers 4-1 on Wednesday.
``He's confident right now. You can see it, a different attitude,' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. ``It's still not a perfect world for him yet, but we're having fun watching him play baseball.'
Deduno (1-1) pitched into the eighth inning, the longest start for a Twins pitcher in more than a month, and gave up four hits and one run. He beat Marco Estrada (4-3), who was done in by a three-run first that sent the Brewers to their fifth straight loss. They're 5-21 in May.
The night before in Milwaukee, Hicks had a home run and a double that set up the go-ahead run in the 14th inning. The rookie center fielder also made a jumping catch at the warning track to take a homer from Carlos Gomez earlier in that game, prompting a respectful tip of the helmet by Gomez.
``It's always fun catching or robbing a home run of another center fielder,' Hicks said with a smile, ``because they know what it's like.'
Hicks also hit a pair of home runs and saved a fly ball hit by Adam Dunn from clearing the wall here against Chicago on May 13.
This time, Hicks snagged a sinking line drive by Rickie Weeks with a dive to end the fourth and keep Gomez from scoring. In the second inning, Hicks nearly stole a double from Gomez with a long run and leap at the top of the fence, but the ball fell out on his way down.
``He's killing us,' Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. ``He's definitely a good defensive player. ... Offensively, we've thrown some fastballs and he's taken some good swings at it.'
Gomez scored after consecutive groundouts, the only damage done against Deduno, the lanky right-hander recalled from Triple-A Rochester last week. He gave a lagging rotation and a tired bullpen a big lift.
Deduno is one of the hardest throwers the Twins have, but he also might be their wildest. His control problems surfaced dangerously in the eighth when Jean Segura, who had six hits Tuesday, was plunked on the left wrist. Segura writhed in pain but stayed in the game. Then Ryan Braun walked, and Casey Fien relieved.
Deduno left to a standing ovation, a rarity at Target Field for a starting pitcher over the last three years. Fien immediately induced a double-play grounder by Aramis Ramirez, and then first baseman Chris Parmelee finished the inning with a tumbling catch over the railing and into the dugout of a foul ball popped up by Gomez.
Deduno's hands were clasped together in a praying position as he watched Parmelee, before reacting with a shout and a pump of his arm to cheer the grab. Earlier, when Hicks sprinted forward and caught the liner just before it grazed the grass, Deduno raised his hands above his head in celebration.
``This is me. When the guys are doing a great job ... my arms are going to be up,' he said.
Deduno walked two and hit three batters while striking out three.
``He can wing it all over the place. I think he makes hitters very comfortable to be in there,' Gardenhire said.
The last time a Twins starter lasted this long was on April 28, when Kevin Correia went eight scoreless innings against Texas. Correia also finished seven innings on May 14, but he gave up four runs in a loss that night to the White Sox.
Glen Perkins, who let the Brewers tie the game in the ninth the night before for his second blown chance this season, pitched a scoreless ninth this time for his 11th save. Jonathan Lucroy led off with a single, but Yuniesky Betancourt and Weeks struck out.
Estrada had a rough start, negating the fine work he did in the middle innings. Ryan Doumit hit a two-run, two-out double to put the Twins in front to stay, and Chris Herrmann followed with an RBI single in his first at-bat of the season. Herrmann was called up from Rochester recently, too.
``We've all been struggling so you want to go out there and give your team the best chance to win. When you give up three runs in the first inning, it kind of kills you,' said Estrada, who completed seven innings with seven hits and four runs against him. He struck out five. ``It's hard to bounce back, especially when the other guy is locked in.'
NOTES: Brewers 1B/OF Corey Hart is closer to a rehab assignment for his right knee. ``Every day he gets a little more confident and comfortable,' Roenicke said. ... Cleared from his concussion and taken off the DL in the afternoon, Twins 3B Trevor Plouffe was scratched from the lineup because of a cramp in his left calf he felt while running before the game. ... Former Twins RH Kyle Lohse (1-5, 3.76 ERA) pitches for the Brewers to finish the series on Thursday, opposite RH P.J. Walters (1-0, 3.00 ERA).
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved