It's easy to be annoyed by the Twins' less-is-more approach to some of their more fragile players. But it's also hard, lately, to argue with the results.
Chris Archer turned in his most impressive, though typically truncated, start of the season on Saturday, allowing only one hit over five innings. And Byron Buxton, starting in center field for the first time since Tuesday, tripled home the Twins' first run, and the only one they would need, in a 6-0 victory over the Rockies at Target Field.
The Twins' fourth one-hitter in Target Field history and second shutout in three days, combined with the Guardians' second consecutive loss to Boston, propelled the Twins back into first place in the AL Central by one game.
It also marked an upswing by their fits-and-starts offense, which has been held to two runs or fewer in six of their past 11 games. Kyle Garlick, in the starting lineup for the first time since June 3, singled in a run in the fifth inning, and Alex Kirilloff contributed three RBI, the most he has had in one game since May 2, 2021.
"We've had a few days over the past week or two where we just haven't been able to get anything going," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "[Buxton] just steps to the plate, whacks one in the gap, and then he's standing on third and drives in a run. That's how fast it can happen when he's out there."
But it was mostly Archer's night, the most spectacular example yet of how the Twins have coaxed effectiveness, and health, out of a veteran who pitched only 19 innings over the past two seasons while batting thoracic outlet syndrome, a forearm injury and a hip strain. He has yet to throw a pitch in the sixth inning, or throw an 80th pitch in any start — but he has also given up a total of five runs in five June starts.
"I'm super grateful for how Rocco is handling this whole situation. It's proving to be successful," said Archer, the only Twins pitcher to have made every start this season. "I love playing for him. I love playing for this organization. The training staff does a great job taking care of me. I couldn't be happier with how everything is going."
Yeah, they're pretty happy too. The righthander didn't allow a ball out of the infield in the first inning, surrendered a single to former Twins first baseman C.J. Cron to lead off the second and a walk to Ryan McMahon. Then Archer embarked on the longest string of outs in his Twins career, retiring the final 12 Colorado hitters he faced.
Even with him dominating the Rockies, even with his fastball gradually climbing toward 95 miles per hour, the Twins stuck to their plan. Archer was out after five innings and 78 pitches, and Jharel Cotton, Griffin Jax and Tyler Thornburg finished off the Twins' first one-hitter since last Sept. 8 at Cleveland, with Jax striking out all three Rockies he faced.
"Spectacular," Buxton said of Archer. "It's fun to watch him pitch and enjoy the game and show his emotions on the mound, which lets you know how much he cares. For me, that gets me going."
And Buxton helped get the whole lineup going.
Luis Arraez ended an 0-for-11 skid, odd enough for the major leagues' leading hitter, by slapping a leadoff first-inning double into the left-field corner, and Buxton followed with a smash to left center that rolled to the wall. Arraez scored, snapping the Twins' 14-inning scoreless streak, and Buxton reached third without a throw for — how's this for odd? — his first triple since July 7, 2019.
"If the time comes for that, I can do that," said Buxton, who roared with pleasure as he stood on third base. "To get back and go out there and run around, win a game, it's what I want to do."