1982: Frank Viola’s first ML win

Wednesday June 16, 1982
Royals Stadium
Kansas City, MO

There really wasn’t much for Twins fans to be excited about it 1982. After play on June 2, the 14th loss in a 14-game losing streak, the Twins stood with 12 wins and 41 losses, already 20 games out of first place in the AL West. The next day, the team called up its second-round selection from the 1981 amateur draft, a left-handed pitcher from St. John’s University. Frank Viola made his first major league appearance – a start – on June 6. He lasted fewer than five innings in both of his first two starts, but didn’t figure in either decision (one a Twins win and the other a loss).

On June 16 he took the hill in Kansas City for his third major league start (the first two had both been home games). Viola retired the first six Royals he faced and had a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the second inning thanks to Gary Gaetti’s sacrifice fly. A Willie Aikens single to lead off the third inning didn’t seem to phase Viola, who breezed through the next five batters he faced. In fact, the only run Viola allowed that night was a solo home run off the bat of Hal McRae in the bottom of the seventh. In all Viola pitched seven innings, allowing just the single run on five hits with four strikeouts.

Kent Hrbek’s two-run double in the sixth and Tom Brunansky’s two-run homer in the eighth accounted for the rest of the Twins’ scoring in their 5-2 victory. Ron Davis finished the game out with two strong innings, allowing just a run on HcRae’s RBI double in the ninth.

For Viola it was the first of his 176 career major league wins. For the Twins it was a rare victory in one of the worst seasons in franchise history; but it also represented a sign of things to come in Minnesota.

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