The Minnesota Twins wasted no time putting their hitting shoes on against Tampa Bay Rays starter Nathan Eovaldi.
The Twins pounded out six hits and four runs in the first inning — and nearly had more with a Brian Dozier drive sending Rays left fielder Joey Wendle to the fence — and followed that up with four more runs in the third on four hits and a walk.
It all added up to an 8-1 lead, but things got a bit shaky for Jake Odorizzi and friends before the offense bailed them out again late to finish off an 11-8 win at Target Field on Friday night.
In all, Mitch Garver was the only Twins batter without a hit — he did, however, walk twice — with Joe Mauer, Eddie Rosario, Jorge Polanco, Robbie Grossman and Jake Cave each picking up multiple hits in a 15-hit attack on the evening.
Here’s what we saw from our vantage point:
Win probability table
The Twins absolutely slaughtered Eovaldi
One night after beating up on All-Star lefty Blake Snell, the Twins took it another step with trade deadline darling Eovaldi. The Twins jumped on him with eight earned runs while recording only that many outs, and after putting together a six-hit first inning added three more in the third before the righty was sent to the showers after a Mauer home run ball to the berm in center.
“I definitely felt they came out swinging,” Eovaldi told reporters after the game. “They were a lot more aggressive. …I just gotta do a better job of making my pitches.”
The final damage on Eovaldi’s season numbers was, not surprisingly, immense.
The 28-year-old came in with a 3.35 ERA, 8.2 strikeouts per nine and 1.1 BB/9 through eight starts and nearly 50 innings.
He departed the game with a 4.59 ERA (4.44 FIP), and of the 19 batters he faced, 11 reached base via a hit (nine) or walk (two).
“Right now it’s just too much of a blur,” Eovaldi said when asked about which at-bats in specific stood out to him among those where he executed poorly. “The game definitely sped up on me a little bit out there.”
Eovaldi showed tremendous velocity — peaking as high as 98.7 mph early on — but the Twins seemed especially locked in on his splitter early on. In all, Eovaldi threw 12 splitters, with nine resulting in strikes — all of which were swung at.
The first one he threw to Eduardo Escobar was a grounder to second, but the next one stayed up to Grossman who hit it for a single to right. The next one was smoked by Cave into left-center for an RBI single.
Odorizzi had a weird night — including a fifth inning he was unable to complete
Odorizzi came into the fifth with an 8-2 lead, and fell behind leadoff batter Kevin Kiermaier — one of the pitcher’s best friends from his time in Tampa — 2-0 before giving up a single to left. Matt Duffy followed with a first-pitch single to right, and the Rays were in business.
Neither ball was exactly crushed — 91.5 and 91.6 mph, respectively — but the next batted ball Odorizzi allowed was — a long home run to uber-prospect Jake Bauers.
After doubling off the top of the limestone in right field on a ball initially called a home run — and instead was Tampa Bay’s third inning in a row with a leadoff double — in the fourth inning, Bauers took it another step in the fifth inning, getting the ball over the limestone and into the flower pots for a three-run homer, the fourth of his young career.
“For a young guy, he’s got a really good approach,” Odorizzi said. “I threw him two splits that I thought were definitely swing, put-’em-in-play type of pitches. Out off the plate and had good action to them and he took both. Pretty good eyes. I think he’s just seeing the ball really well right now. He’s a good hitter and obviously earned his way to the big leagues not by doing stupid stuff.”
Odorizzi bounced back to get Wilson Ramos to ground to short, but after the righty hit Wendle with a pitch in the right foot, manager Paul Molitor went to get his starter with the lead trimmed to 8-6 and Daniel Robertson suddenly representing the tying run with only one out in the inning.
“Personally, it’s frustrating for me, but I have a break to reset and kind of have a good second half because I haven’t thrown the ball the way I’m capable of here in the first half,” Odorizzi said. “But just a frustrating way to end on a personal note, but got to love the win.”
This Twins offense seems to have found a new gear or identity
Of course, it’s easy to say when a team scores a season-high 11 runs, but it just feels like this offense has a different vibe to it of late. On nights when Garver and Cave are rounding out the order, there aren’t any easy at-bats for opposing pitchers like there have been at times this season.
In all, the Twins reached base 19 times in 40 plate appearances on Friday night — nearly a .500 on-base percentage. Single-game stats like that don’t mean much in terms of a statistical breakdown, but it just simply shows how dominant the offense was against a very good pitcher on that night alone.
“Some of the guys who have been a little hit and miss through the first stage of the year are putting it together,” Molitor said. “You see a lot of numbers climbing in the right direction throughout the homestand.
“It was just one of those games where we had to fight them off. We got up early, some big hits. We knocked out another good pitcher, which was really good to see. But those middle innings, I think they put up six unanswered runs and we had to find a way to counter, which we did. And so it was one of those games where you had to keep scoring. You didn’t know what the final score was going to be to be enough, but we got enough to get it done.”
Mitch Garver had an odd night at the plate
Garver ended the first inning with a grounder in the hole deep at short, one that came off the bat at 96.4 mph that Adeiny Hechavarria made a nice play on.
The in the third inning, Garver made the second out by absolutely throttling an Eovaldi splitter for a wicked lineout to Duffy at third base.
The exit velo on that one? How about 97.3 mph.
So after scorching the ball twice with nothing to show for it, Garver simply decided to walk his final two times up. He’s hitting a respectable .255/.335/.376 for the season. Grossman, too, has picked up steam with a three-hit night, and is up to a reasonable .251/.333/.372 on the year.
Jake Bauers really gave the Twins trouble
He finished the night 2-for-5 with the aforementioned homer and double, driving in three runs to push his season line to a tremendous .258/.378/.492 just 34 games into his MLB career.
Between the double that just missed going out and the homer that just snuck out, Bauers was seen on television lifting some weights borrowed from Mallex Smith.
He told the story after the game on Fox Sports Sun:
The Twins bullpen had a solid evening
Alan Busenitz came in for Odorizzi and gave up a double to right-center to score Wendle, but settled down to get the next two batters out and get out of the inning with the Twins still ahead.
The Rays didn’t score again until Wendle took Fernando Rodney deep in the ninth inning with the Twins up by four runs. In all, Busenitz, Taylor Rogers, Matt Belisle, Trevor Hildenberger, Zach Duke and Rodney combined to throw 4.2 innings of two-run ball with seven strikeouts, one walk and five hits allowed.
For a much-maligned unit, they’ve done a solid job in July — or at least since returning from the homestand.
- News broke after Friday night’s game that top prospect Royce Lewis had been promoted to High-A Fort Myers. Cedar Rapids beat Fort Wayne 4-2 on Friday evening, then clubbies helped Lewis pack up his belongings to join the Miracle. Lewis finished his Low-A tenure with a .315/.368.485 slash line in 75 games, including 22 stolen bases (in 26 attempts) and 32 extra-base hits. He doesn’t turn 20 until June 5 next year.
- The Twins improved to 28-21 at home this season and 8-1 on the current homestand.
- Dozier hit his 200th career double and also extended his hitting streak to eight games. Other active hitting streaks on the team are Cave (eight), Mauer (seven), Polanco (four) and Grossman (three).