A rookie and a veteran turned in supurb games Saturday to help their teams in the midst of the playoff stretch.
Reds 6, Cardinals 1 — Cincinnati rookie Travis Wood sported a new look Saturday. The long locks were gone, replaced with a shorter, more military-style haircut.
His strong outing on the mound was the perfect match for his more clean-cut appearance.
Wood pitched seven efficient innings and hit his first career homer to lead the Reds against Adam Wainwright and the St. Louis Cardinals.
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"I just worked hard and came out with a mindset that I wasn't going to let them beat me," Wood said.
Cincinnati bounced back from Friday night's 3-2 loss in the series opener with its seventh victory in nine games, restoring its eight-game lead over the Cardinals in the NL Central.
Wood (5-2) allowed an unearned run and five hits. He also struck out three and walked two.
The left-hander was 0-1 with a 10.00 ERA in his previous two starts, allowing 17 hits in nine innings.
"Just a spur of the moment kind of thing," he said of the haircut. "I felt like I just needed to get back in gear."
Wainwright (17-10) pitched five innings for the Cardinals, yielding five runs, two earned, and seven hits. The right-hander is 0-4 with a 4.88 ERA in his last four starts.
"I don't like losing one game, much less four in a row," he said. "I won't lose again."
Once automatic at home, Wainwright is 1-2 in his last four starts at Busch Stadium after opening the season with 10 consecutive victories at St. Louis' ballpark.
Twins 12, Rangers 4 — Veteran Jim Thome has the classic slugger's swing, a hard uppercut that rarely yields a cheap home run.
He's sure getting the most out of his first season with Minnesota, too.
Thome homered twice, moving past Mark McGwire for ninth place on baseball's all-time list and powering the Twins over Texas.
"He never ceases to amaze us," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's just going up and whacking the ball. It's Babe Ruth all over again."
At age 40, Thome now has 584 career home runs, continuing to hack away at that hallowed — even if steroid-tainted — leader board. As for the Babe, though, he's still 130 homers ahead.
"I don't think so," Thome said, when asked if he could catch Ruth for third. "I think I'll be fishing by then."
Thome went deep leading off the third inning, a shot to the second deck above right field estimated at 449 feet. Then with two on and two outs in the fourth, Thome's full-count drive into the bullpen behind left-center made it 9-0.
Thome also drew a couple of walks, giving him 1,668 lifetime freebees. That moved him into ninth in that career category, too, passing Frank Thomas.
"Anything he does, you just like watching him," said Matt Tolbert, who had a career-high five RBIs. "It kind of doesn't set in that you're playing on a team with a future Hall of Famer."
In just 237 at-bats, Thome has 20 homers. He took over sole possession of the Twins lead, passing Jason Kubel and the disabled Justin Morneau.
His back and hip can be a bother, keeping him out for a few days even this week. That's why Gardenhire limits Thome's time even with Morneau's absence creating more need for a designated hitter. Thome insisted he didn't have expectations for this year, knowing he would no longer be an everyday player.
It's not easy for him to sit out, but it might help him down the stretch.
"In the past, you get to September and, let's face it, you're playing every day and your body starts to wear down," Thome said.