Minnesota Twins right-hander Liam Hendriks couldn't hide his relief, or his elation, after earning his first major league victory Wednesday in a 6-4 win at Cleveland.
"It's been a long, long time, and it feels fantastic," he said. "I'm at a loss for words right now. I'm excited and happy, and it's such a great thing."
Hendriks allowed two earned runs on two hits and two walks over six innings, narrowly avoiding the third-longest winless drought to start a major league career. He entered the game tied with Craig Anderson (1962-64) and Jason Hammel (2006-07) at 17 consecutive starts without a victory, behind only the 20 of Bill Caudill (1979-81) and Mike Mohler (1993-97).
Wednesday's victory, Hendriks acknowledged, was a weight off his shoulders. It was frustrating when he threw a complete game in a 1-0 loss to Seattle's Felix Hernandez on Aug. 27, and confounding when he couldn't hold four-run leads against Kansas City on Sept. 1 and Cleveland on Sept. 7.
"Any time it takes you this long to get a win, it weighs on you a little bit," Hendriks said. "I've had to keep a positive outlook and just keep going out there and keep trying my best and not give in.
"It's a great feeling to get that first one, and hopefully I can finish off the season with a couple more."
Pitching to catcher Chris Herrmann, a former minor league teammate who was making his first major league start, Hendriks allowed a two-out, solo home run to Asdrubal Cabrera in the first, then an RBI single to Jason Kipnis that tied the game 2-2 in the third inning. After that, he allowed only two additional baserunners -- on shortstop Pedro Florimon's error on a Travis Hafner grounder in the fourth and a one-out walk to Carlos Santana in the sixth.
Santana was erased on Michael Brantley's 4-6-3 double play on what would be Hendriks' last pitch of the night.
The Twins, of course, are expecting much more from Hendriks, whose trouble in the majors belied a terrific minor league career, 21-9 with a 2.85 ERA over 245 2/3 innings between Class AAA Rochester and Class AA New Britain the past two seasons. His victory Wednesday raised his major league numbers this season to 1-7 with a 5.88 ERA.
"You've got to carry it from there, but to get the first one out of the way now, hopefully it will give him a little confidence and he can just kind of continue on from there and make pitches when he has to," manager Ron Gardenhire said.