CLEVELAND (AP)—Dave Gassner had a sleepless night, then made a dream debut.
Backed by three-run homers from Lew Ford and Torii Hunter, the left-hander won his major league debut Saturday, beating the Cleveland Indians 6-4 and helping the Minnesota Twins to their sixth straight victory.
“I didn’t sleep much,” said Gassner (1-0) who worked six strong innings to become the first Twins pitcher to win his first big league start since Eric Milton beat Kansas City on April 5, 1998.
“I could not have written a better script,” said the 26-year-old, who had more than 100 family and friends in the stands. “I feel fortunate to do as well as I did in front of all of them. I was nervous.”
Ford connected off Kevin Millwood (0-2) with two outs in the sixth inning for a 3-2 lead. Hunter hit a three-run shot with none out in the eighth to make it 6-2.
“I felt good, I just didn’t think good,” said Millwood, who missed most of the second half of 2004 with Philadelphia because of a sore elbow.
“My pitch selection wasn’t good,” he added. “It was not a smart day for me. That’s even more frustrating.”
Cleveland manager Eric Wedge considered lifting Millwood after seven innings, but, “Kevin felt strong and deserved a chance to go out there another inning and try to get a win.”
Hunter was not as sure.
“I was shocked,” he said. “You know he’s a bulldog and wants the ball, but I was surprised.”
Millwood, who has not worked more than seven innings since Sept. 3, 2003, threw 101 pitches entering the eighth.
Gassner kept the Indians off balance with an array off-speed pitches. He allowed three hits and two runs—one earned. He walked one and struck out one.
He was recalled from Triple-A Rochester when right-hander Carlos Silva went on the disabled list with torn cartilage in his right knee April 9. Gassner was 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA at Rochester after compiling a 2.38 ERA in seven spring appearances with the Twins.
“He did exactly what we saw all spring,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He commanded the strike zone and changed speeds.”
Gassner went 16-8 a year ago at Rochester—the most wins by a Red Wings pitcher since 1966 and most by a lefty since 1951.
“We had a scouting report on him,” Wedge said, “but we didn’t do a very good job of being patient against him.”
Jose Hernandez, who went 3-for-4, put Cleveland ahead with a two-run homer in the second, but the Indians lost for the fourth time in five games.
Aaron Boone reached second when Twins second baseman Nick Punto lost his popup in the sun and had the ball glance off his glove for an error. Hernandez then drove a 2-2 pitch over the left-center field wall for his first AL homer and 160th of his career.
Millwood didn’t allow a hit until Terry Tiffee’s two-out single in the fourth. That snapped an 0-for-29 streak by Twins batters since the third inning of their 3-2 win Friday night.
Hunter doubled Tiffee to third, but Millwood struck out Jacque Jones to end the threat.
With two outs in the sixth, Hunter singled and took third on Jones’ opposite-field double off the left-field wall.
Ford, a .338 (26-for-77) career hitter against Cleveland, then hit his second homer for a 3-2 lead.
“Millwood faced us last year and he had a lot more velocity today,” said Ford. “He threw good, but I was able to lift a fastball.”
Mauer and Tiffee each singled before Hunter connected for his third homer in the eighth.
Millwood allowed six runs and nine hits over seven-plus innings. He is still looking for his first AL win since signing a one-year, $7 million free agent contract in January.
Ludwick is 2-for-16 this season—both hits were homers. The Twins have scored first in only one of 11 games. … Minnesota has outscored the opposition 37-19 during its winning streak. … Cleveland did not make an error for the first time in 11 games this year. … Millwood remains two wins shy of 100 for his career. … Gassner, Milton and Scott Erickson, on June 25, 1990, are the only Twins starters since 1980 to win their first start in the big leagues.