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DETROIT (AP) — After a tough couple of months, Ricky Nolasco found an old friend Wednesday night: his slider.
Nolasco made adjustments going into his start and allowed two unearned runs in 5 1/3 innings in the Minnesota Twins' 6-2 win over the Detroit Tigers. He gave up four hits and three walks, while striking out seven.
"My slider has always been my best strikeout pitch, but I hadn't had it until now," he said. "We really worked on closing my front side in the bullpen, and with enough repetition, I was able to keep that rhythm in the game."
Nolasco came in with a 9.00 ERA, but still wasn't satisfied with his performance.
"I'll take this for now — it is a step forward — but I need to be more efficient with my pitches," said Nolasco, who threw 106 pitches. "I need to be able to get through six."
The Twins came in with a 1-6 record against Detroit and 17-9 against the rest of the majors. In four games at Comerica Park, they were 0-4 and had been outscored 24-2.
"It was good to get a win here," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "That's a tough team to beat, especially in Detroit."
Kyle Lobstein (3-3) allowed six runs and seven hits and a walk while only recording seven outs.
"Everything was in the zone or down the middle," he said. "It's pretty easy to hit 86 (mph) when it's down the middle."
The Tigers lost outfielder J.D. Martinez to a back injury. He singled in his first two at-bats, but Rajai Davis hit for him in the sixth. The team announced he had lower back tightness and is day-to-day.
"I don't know how serious it is," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "He took some swings in the cage and said it didn't bother him too much."
Hunter got things started for the Twins in the first, homering against his former teammates. Minnesota blew it open in the third, highlighted by Mauer's three-run triple.
Aaron Hicks and Danny Santana started the inning with singles, and after a popout, Hunter walked to load the bases. Mauer drove a pitch into the right-center field gap to clear the bases. He scored on Trevor Plouffe's triple to the same spot.
Kurt Suzuki doubled to make it 6-0 and end Lobstein's night.
"Last night, we had a lot of opportunities to put up a big inning, and we never took one," Molitor said. "Tonight, when we got our one shot at it, Joe got us the big triple and Trevor and Kurt both followed up."
Nolasco got into his first jam in the sixth, when Detroit loaded the bases with one out on a single, a walk and an error. That brought Aaron Thompson out of the Twins' bullpen, and he retired Cespedes on a sacrifice fly to make it 6-1.
Nick Castellanos followed with an RBI single, but Thompson retired James McCann to end the inning. The Tigers loaded the bases with one out again in the seventh, but Michael Tonkin struck out Victor Martinez and got Davis on a grounder back to the mound.
Martinez, who struck out only 42 times while hitting a career-high 32 homers last season, struck out three times and is now hitting .152 against right-handed pitching.
"I was the one who went out there with a lot of men in scoring position," said Martinez, who once again dismissed the possibility of only hitting right-handed until his left knee improves. "I didn't get the job done."
Twins: Nolasco, who had struck out just five batters in his two starts since returning from the disabled list with elbow inflammation, had five strikeouts over the fourth and fifth innings. He struck out the top four batters in the Tigers' order, including Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, gave up an infield single, then struck out Cespedes.
Tigers: The team announced before the game that after several examinations, C Alex Avila is going to try to rehab his knee injury rather than undergo season-ending surgery. Avila went on the disabled list Saturday, and the team has not given a timetable on his return.
The teams finish the three-game series with Mike Pelfrey (3-0, 2.62) facing Anibal Sanchez (2-4, 5.44). The Twins are 5-1 in Pelfrey's six starts, including a 3-2 win over Sanchez on April 28 at Target Field.