ST. LOUIS (AP) — Amid a bitterly cold April that led to four weather-related postponements, the Minnesota Twins never really had a chance to reap the rewards of a busy offseason.
Now that the weather's turned, the Twins are starting to live up to the lofty expectations that followed the franchise's first postseason appearance in seven seasons.
Led by a strong pitching performance from Jake Odorizzi and a two-run home by Eduardo Escobar, Minnesota beat the St. Louis Cardinals 7-1 on Tuesday for a season-high fifth straight victory.
The win capped a two-game series sweep for the Twins, who pulled within two games of .500 and have won 14 of their last 17 games against National League teams. For a team that had lost 11 of 12 a week ago, the turnaround has been a welcomed relief — along with playing regularly after last month's postponements.
"It's hard to have an All-Star break in April," Odorizzi said. "We didn't play good on that road trip and it showed. Now we got that behind us and playing good baseball, I think we see what the real Twins can do."
Odorizzi (3-2) allowed just two hits in five innings and one run, a homer by Jose Martinez in the first inning. The right-hander combined with three relievers to retire the final 18 batters of the game.
Escobar had two of Minnesota's 10 hits. Robbie Grossman had a two-run double in the fifth inning as the Twins won for the sixth time in seven games.
"We're playing better in all phases right now," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "We're executing, especially over the last handful of days. We caught them at the right time I guess."
Carlos Martinez (3-2) saw his stretch of six straight starts allowing one or fewer runs end. The right-hander allowed four runs in five innings, with two of the runs unearned on a day when the Cardinals matched their season worst with three errors.
The Cardinals had just two hits in the loss and six hits combined in the two games against the Twins. St. Louis has now lost two in a row after a season-best five-game winning streak, including a weekend sweep of the Chicago Cubs that ended with a 14-inning victory at nearly 1 a.m. Monday.
"It looks like this weekend might have caught up with us a little bit, but we've got to play better and we know that," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "... They've got a good offense, but we didn't show them our team."
Minnesota's Eddie Rosario extended his hitting streak to nine games with his second-inning single. The outfielder finished 2 for 5 and has now hit safely in 11 of his last 12 games — batting .396 (21 for 53) during that stretch.
Twins: Molitor said Gold Glove center fielder Byron Buxton ran the bases before the game and could return as soon as Thursday. Buxton has been out since April 12th with a hairline fracture of his left big toe.
Cardinals: Center fielder Tommy Pham missed a second straight game with a lingering hip abductor injury. Matheny said giving Pham off on Tuesday made sense with Wednesday an off day. The 30-year-old is likely to return to the lineup against San Diego on Thursday.
Twins: Minnesota has off on Wednesday before beginning a four-game series at the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday. Right-hander Jose Berrios (3-3, 3.98 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Twins. He allowed four or more runs in each of his last three starts.
Cardinals: Miles Mikolas (4-0, 2.70 ERA) starts for St. Louis when it opens a four-game series at San Diego on Thursday. The right-hander threw seven scoreless innings against the Chicago Cubs in his last start. He's struck out 31 and walked only two batters in 40 innings this season.