Put simply, Jesse Hahn has not had a poor outing since his debut against the Pirates on June 3.
The Padres' right-hander, who is 7-1 with a 1.44 ERA in eight starts since then and has shown few signs of slowing down, will take the ball in Tuesday's opener vs. the Twins at Target Field. Hahn shut down the Cardinals during his most recent start on Wednesday (one earned run in seven innings on his 25th birthday), and has surrendered only 5.7 hits and 0.3 home runs per nine innings this season.
Manager Bud Black and Hahn both attributed the youngster's success against the Cards to excellent movement on his fastball, which often dipped like a sinker and other times tailed like a two-seamer.
"It got a lot of ground balls for me tonight," Hahn said after the start. "The first inning I actually had trouble controlling it a little bit -- I don't think my fastball has ever moved that much."
Hitters have a collective line of .182/.270/.246 against Hahn, who's mainly utilized a fastball/curve combination to rack up 54 strikeouts in 53 2/3 innings.
"It's a traditional, old-school curveball," Black said. "It's got great spin to it, 12-to-6 or 1-to-7. He throws it with great arm speed and it comes out mid-70s [mph], which when you have a guy throwing 90, it shows. I like the fact that it has a big break to it. It has a good, tight spin. In the hitting area, it's biting. He's not afraid to throw it 3-2, 3-1."
Those pitches have helped Hahn win seven games in his first nine career starts, the most in Padres history.
"He's not a secret, even though he's been facing teams for the first time," Black said. "He's being talked about because he's made a number of starts and his innings are getting up there a little bit. First look for the Cardinals, I think they saw a guy with a good fastball and a good hook who mixed in some changeups as the game went on."
Twins starter Phil Hughes, meanwhile, picked up his first quality start in four tries his last time out on Wednesday vs. the Royals. Hughes (10-8, 4.12 ERA) took the loss despite allowing just three runs in six innings.
The former Yankee got off to an excellent start this season, but his production has slipped in recent months. Hughes' ERA is a poor 5.63 in three starts since the All-Star break, and 6.08 in his past eight outings.
Still, last Wednesday's effort against the Royals was a step in the right direction.
"[The Royals'] approach to jump on first-pitch fastballs turned out to be a good one," Hughes said. "I left a few balls over the plate for doubles, and that's the game. It's unfortunate. I felt like I had good stuff all night."
Padres: Rotation for Pittsburgh series undecided
With two off-days upcoming on Monday and Thursday this week and Ian Kennedy's recent minor oblique injury complicating things, Black is still unsure how his team's rotation will shake out after they complete their two-game series against the Twins.
Odrisamer Despaigne is set to start Wednesday, and Black could choose to skip over Eric Stults (4.94 ERA) in favor of Kennedy for Friday's opener against Pittsburgh.
But Black likes the way Stults has looked in his last two starts, and noted Kennedy's reluctance to let loose on his fastball in his first start back from a mild oblique strain on Saturday.
"We'll look through when we get to Minnesota ... whether Ian needs another day or two based on his side session [in between starts]," Black said. "He'll throw a side in Minnesota and we'll gauge where he is. We'll see where him and Tyson [Ross] and Stultzie line up when we get to Minnesota, and see how that relates to the Pittsburgh series."
Twins: Escobar expected back in the lineup
Eduardo Escobar went 0-for-4 on Saturday against the White Sox, so manager Ron Gardenhire sat the 25-year-old infielder during Sunday's game in Chicago.
"Esco kind of scuffled along [Saturday]," Gardenhire said. "He was chasing a little bit. I think, since this was his old team, he has a tendency to try to do a little bit much. So hopefully he'll take a little bit of a breath. We like to use everybody anyway."
Despite the poor game, Escobar has been fairly consistent for a lackluster Twins offense. He's picked up a hit in 12 of his past 16 games, but he hasn't notched an RBI in any of his past 13 contests.
• Hahn has given up one run or less in six of eight starts while not allowing more than three runs during that span.
• The Twins have lost three straight games with Hughes on the mound.