CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Aaron Hicks made a pretty strong case that he should be the Twins’ starting center fielder.
He homered three times and helped the Twins to a 10-6 victory against the Phillies on a windy Thursday. He now has five home runs in his last three games.
“Wow, what do you say? Play the elements,” Twins manager Rod Gardenhire said. “Wind’s blowing out, and he hit ‘em out where the wind’s blowing. Pretty fun day. You don’t see that too many times.”
Hicks hit homers in the first, fifth and seventh innings, the first coming on the second pitch of the game from Phillies starter Cliff Lee. He went 4 for 5 in the game with six RBIs.
“He had a pretty good day,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “Mother Nature kind of helped him though.”
Hicks came up in the eighth inning with a chance at four homers, but instead laced a broken-bat, two-RBI single to center.
“Of course I wanted to go for the fourth one,” Hicks said. “I had two pitches to do it on, missed both of them. Got a changeup, broken-bat base hit. Died a hero but got two runs in.”
Hicks said the last time he hit three home runs was in high school.
Lee pitched 3 2-3 innings, gave up two runs, four hits and struck out five in his third appearance of spring training.
“I feel good,” Lee said. “I feel strong. I felt like I could keep going, but I don’t know what my pitch count was.”
The Phillies held a steady lead for most of the contest, leading 6-3 as late as the sixth inning.
Hicks’ solo homer in the seventh, along with a run scored on Zach Miner’s wild pitch, narrowed the lead to one before the five-run outburst in the eighth.
Miner took most of the shelling, allowing five of the Twins’ 10 runs in his inning of work. Miner, who signed a minor-league contract with the Phillies with a non-roster invite to spring training, allowed three hits and walked two.
Astros 4, Nationals 2
KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Gio Gonzalez pitched three scoreless innings before heading to join the United States team at the World Baseball Classic and the Washington Nationals lost to the Houston Astros.
Jason Castro drove in two runs with a single in the eighth inning off losing pitcher Ryan Mattheus that scored Fernando Martinez and Rick Ankiel.
Michael Taylor drove in both of the Nationals’ runs with an eighth-inning single off Dallas Keutchel. Josh Zeid won for the Astros.
Gonzalez gave up three hits while striking out three.
Houston starter Phil Humber pitched four innings, giving up only a two-out double to Corey Brown.
Rays 4, Pirates 2.
BRADENTON, Fla. — Alex Cobb pitched one-hit ball for four scoreless innings and the Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Cobb struck out five, twice fanning All-Star Andrew McCutchen, and walked none. He retired the first eight batters.
Relievers Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi followed as the Rays’ staff combined for 11 strikeouts.
Pittsburgh starter James McDonald also gave up just one hit in four shutout innings. He walked three and struck out one.
An error by third baseman Gaby Sanchez helped Tampa Bay score four runs in the seventh.
Russell Martin hit a two-run double in the ninth for the Pirates.
Mets 4, Marlins 1
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Matt Harvey was nearly perfect for 4 1-3 shutout innings, pitching the New York Mets past the Miami Marlins.
Harvey didn’t give up a hit or walk, and struck out five.
The only baserunner against him reached on an error. The Mets right-hander is set to begin his first full season in the majors.
Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco was almost as impressive, giving up an unearned run and three hits in 3 2-3 innings. He struck out six.
Mets reliever Pedro Feliciano, wearing a heart monitor, retired the two lefty batters he faced in the fifth inning.
Matt den Dekker homered in the fifth for the Mets.
Orioles 11, Blue Jays 10
SARASOTA, Fla. — Ryan Flaherty hit a three-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, giving the Baltimore Orioles a win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday.
The Orioles blew a 6-1 lead when the Blue Jays scored a run in the fifth, two in the sixth and three in the seventh.
Baltimore reliever Daniel McCutchen gave up five runs and seven hits in 1 1-3 innings.
Mark Buehrle, as the Blue Jays’ third starter behind R.A. Dickey and Josh Johnson, allowed Nolan Reimold’s leadoff home run in the first in his two innings.
Jason Hammel, a likely candidate to start opening day for Baltimore, allowed five hits in 2 1-3 innings.
Red Sox 12, Twins (ss) 5
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Mike Napoli hit a three-run homer for Boston, Clay Buchholz overcame leg soreness to pitch three scoreless innings and the Red Sox beat a split squad of Minnesota Twins.
Buchholz, who aggravated a hamstring muscle on the first day of spring training, struck out four with two hits and no walks in his second preseason start. Reliever Daniel Bard, who struggled in 2012 with a 5-6 record with a 6.22 ERA, struck out the side in the sixth inning.
Dustin Pedroia went 2 for 4 with a double, two RBIs and two runs for the Red Sox.
Twins starter Kevin Correia gave up three runs in 2 1-3 innings. Signed to a two-year contract to help fill out a depleted rotation, the right-hander allowed six hits.
Cardinals 7, Yankees 6
JUPITER, Fla. - Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso each homered and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the New York Yankees.
Kozma hit a solo home run in the fifth inning and also singled. Descalso hit a two-run homer in the seventh.
The Cardinals were without outfielder Matt Holliday, who had a stomach virus.
Yankees starter Ivan Nova allowed one run in three innings.
St. Louis scored three times in the ninth. Kolton Wong hit a tying, two-run homer and a pair of errors set up Adron Chambers’ winning single.
Brewers 4, Diamondbacks 3
PHOENIX — Khris Davis hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning, his third straight game with a homer, and the Milwaukee Brewers rallied to beat the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Eric Chavez gave Arizona a 2-0 lead in the third with a two-out home run just to the right of the batters’ eye in center field, his first of the spring.
Milwaukee tied it at 2 in the bottom of the inning on Alex Gonzalez’s towering homer to the top of the grass berm in left.
The Diamondbacks made it 3-2 in the top of the eighth when Rossmel Perez stole third and scored when Adam Weisenburger’s throw sailed into the outfield.