Ron Gardenhire was a little worried about the Twins’ past two games in Houston. Long reliever Anthony Swarzak threw a season-high 70 pitches Monday meaning the Twins’ long reliever and early-inning bailout artist was unavailable — “and we’ve got a couple of kids going” the manager said.

Pedro Hernandez didn’t pitch like a kid though. Making his first major league start since June 23 the Venezuelan lefthander ripped through the Astros’ lineup with little trouble needing only 70 pitches to complete six innings and hand over a 4-1 lead to the bullpen in a game the Twins eventually won 9-6 in 12 innings.

Glen Perkins gave up three runs in the bottom of the ninth to send it into extra innings.

Hernandez was no sure thing especially against Houston’s promising rookie Jarred Cosart and the Twins didn’t even commit to Hernandez for the start until it became clear that Class AAA Rochester’s season wouldn’t end in time to bring a Red Wings pitcher to the big leagues. Hernandez experienced some shoulder problems at Rochester and had pitched only 18 innings since the All-Star break seven of them at the rookie level.

But maybe all the rest helped because Hernandez was sharp. He allowed six hits over six innings (plus one batter in the seventh) but never more than one per inning. One of them was a home run that Chris Carter crushed onto the railroad tracks high above the left-field bleachers in the second inning but the other five were singles. Since he never walked a batter Hernandez was able to avoid any trouble posting his longest start of the season.

No need for Swarzak in other words.

The Twins bullpen wasn’t quite as sharp and Casey Fien allowed Hernandez’s second run to score plus one of his own and the Astros closed the score to 4-3. But Minnesota prevented Houston from tying the game in the seventh on a crazy baserunning play.