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Updated: May 15th, 2014 4:58pm
Wetmore: 5 thoughts, Aaron Hicks' heroics, Phil Hughes cruises

Wetmore: 5 thoughts, Aaron Hicks' heroics, Phil Hughes cruises

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by Derek Wetmore
1500ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins won another series against a good team, when Phil Hughes kept the Red Sox lineup in check through six innings Thursday, and Aaron Hicks delivered a walk-off hit in extras. The first quarter of the schedule was supposed to be tough sledding for the Twins, but despite stretches of crummy pitching the Twins are within a game of .500 through the first 39 games.

Glen Perkins blew a save and got a win when the recently chastised Hicks delivered a walk-off hit in the 10th inning.

This column presents 5 thoughts from Thursday's game.

As always, feel free to ask any questions or make any observations in the comments. If you have a unique baseball observation during a game, feel free to share it with me on Twitter (@DerekWetmore).

--

1. Aaron Hicks made it two unlikely walk-off heroes in three days for the Twins against the Red Sox. Chris Parmelee was the unlikely hero Tuesday night.

Hicks responded to public criticism from within the organization by winning a ballgame for the Twins.

"That was a big hit for me, a big hit for our team and it felt good for me to produce for our team," Hicks said.

How about to come through after the manager went public with the challenge to be better prepared?

"It was something that we talked about. I need to start becoming a better professional, a better player," Hicks said. "There are things I need to know and things I need to do to prepare for a regular game."

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2. Phil Hughes has pitched effectively lately, even if he's not always getting deep into ballgames. That was the case again Thursday. He needed 97 pitches to get through 6 innings. He allowed just five hits with no walks and eight strikeouts. A team would be happy with that stat line every time.

Hughes threw 74 of his 97 pitches for strikes (76 percent), and I counted 11 swinging strikes.

Hughes doesn't miss a lot of bats, so the strikeout totals lately have been a little surprising. Of his eight strikeouts Wednesday, two were called, four were swinging and two came on foul tips to the catcher Kurt Suzuki's glove.

--

3. Hughes and Xander Bogaerts locked in a 14-pitch battle before Bogaerts flew out to center field to end the fifth inning. That was a big out for Hughes because Dustin Pedroia had just doubled and David Ortiz was standing on deck.

Pitch No.

Type

MPH

Result

1

4-seam fastball

93

Ball

2

4-seam fastball

92

Called strike

3

Cutter

89

Swinging strike

4

Cutter

90

Foul

5

Cutter

89

Ball

6

4-seam fastball

93

Ball

7

4-seam fastball

92

Foul

8

4-seam fastball

92

Foul

9

4-seam fastball

93

Foul

10

4-seam fastball

93

Foul

11

4-seam fastball

93

Foul

12

Cutter

87

Foul

13

4-seam fastball

93

Foul

14

Cutter

88

Flyout

--

It's possible that high number of pitches cost Hughes another inning, but I gave Hughes credit in his last start when he said he felt his stuff was deteriorating late in his outing, to have the presence of mind to realize a good reliever will perform better than a tired Phil Hughes. He gave the Twins 7 good innings in Detroit and the setup-closer tandem of Casey Fien and Glen Perkins shut the door on a 2-1 win.

If a team has a couple lights-out bullpen arms, there's no problem with starters consistently going 6 or 7 innings.

Wednesday, one of the Twins' lights-out bullpen arms coughed up a two-run lead, which cost Hughes a win.

--

4. Josmil Pinto should be playing nearly every day, in my opinion. He was not in the lineup Thursday, with Kurt Suzuki catching and Joe Mauer at designated hitter. Chris Colabello played first base.

Ron Gardenhire said before Thursday's game that Mauer feels "great" after recently returning to the lineup following a bout with back spasms.

"Good to see him go out there and play," Gardenhire said. "Any time we get a chance like this you can move him around to give a guy like that a day - coming off a back thing is never easy. He's feeling great and doing fine. I like to get Colabello out in the field, it's just easier this way."

I'll leave open the possibility that the Twins wanted to spell Mauer on a day game after a night game and still wanted his bat in the lineup.

But if Mauer is fully healthy and the choice is between Pinto-Mauer and Colabello-Mauer, the Twins should choose Pinto-Mauer.

Gardenhire said this week he's not afraid of playing both catchers in the lineup at the same time, even without third catcher Chris Herrmann on the roster.

--

5. Andrew Miller served up both walk-off hits to the Twins, and took the loss Tuesday and Thursday. Conversely, Glen Perkins blew his second save of the season but was let off the hook thanks to Hicks' heroics. Perkins pitched a scoreless ninth inning Tuesday to preserve a tie game before Parmelee's walk-off homer, in which Perkins earned the win.

Derek Wetmore is the senior editor for 1500ESPN.com. His previous stops include MLB.com and the Minnesota Daily.
Email Derek | @DerekWetmore
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