Jake Odorizzi is no stranger to the New York Yankees.
After spending the vast majority of his career with the Tampa Bay Rays, he’d seen them for 15 appearances (14 starts) and 82 innings — marks exceeded by just the Baltimore Orioles (20 games, 105.2 innings), Boston Red Sox (18, 90) and Toronto Blue Jays (15, 89.2).
Sure, some of the faces have changed, but in general, these are the Yankees he’s seen and faced over the last few years, during which he combined a 4.61 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP.
So when Odorizzi’s starting catcher Mitch Garver was removed from the game for precautionary reasons in the top of the third inning after taking a ball off the mask, and Willians Astudillo entered the game, the 28-year-old righty decided to grab the reins and take things from there.
“I just kind of took over the game,” Odorizzi said. “I was shaking (him off) a lot, but we’d never thrown to each other in a game. So I was just calling my game out there. I told him, ‘Don’t take any offense to me shaking a ton, but I know these guys. I’m just going to throw what I feel. Don’t take offense to me shaking and shaking; don’t get upset with me.’
“He didn’t, so it was good.”
Part of it was familiarity with the opponent for Odorizzi, but more so it was how he was into the flow of the game to that point.
“It’s just one of those things where you’re in the flow of the game,” Odorizzi said. “I’m not thinking about what I did a year or two ago; it’s just the previous at-bat and what they’re trying to do. Like I said, just staying one step ahead of them pretty much. They’re a good team for a reason, so I was happy to finally have a good outing against them.”
To say it was a ‘good outing’ was an understatement, and to say that Astudillo didn’t get upset with him was for good reason.
Odorizzi took a no-hitter into the eighth inning, and the Twins ultimately won the game 3-1, and the series, 2-1.
What was working for Odorizzi?
“My split was pretty good today,” he said. “Some timely sliders. I felt like I had good life on the fastball, and that just makes the split a little bit better. A few curveballs mixed in there to mess with some timing. It was just one of those days where you go with the kitchen sink.”
Odorizzi also lauded his great defense, but stopped short of mentioning this play:
— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) September 13, 2018
“It’s something I wouldn’t say I practice,” Odorizzi admitted. “I’ve done it in a game a handful of times. (I) just try to take pride in being an athlete still. Pitchers get a bad rap from time to time, so you’ve got to put them back on the map every now and again. Jose does it too. Sometimes it’s a do-or-die play, that’s all I had to do.”
It wasn’t just Odorizzi who was dominant on the night, however.
His mound counterpart was Luis Severino — famous for his rough first inning in last year’s American League Wild Card game — who is still a young flamethrower who left the Twins mostly helpless until he was lifted in the sixth inning.
Joe Mauer opened the bottom of the first with a single to right field off the glove of second baseman Gleyber Torres in the shift, and from that point until Max Kepler led off the sixth with a single of his own, Severino was in the zone, retiring 15 straight batters as the teams literally combined for just one hit and three baserunners over that time frame.
Manager Aaron Boone went to get Severino with two out in the sixth, and it appeared to really agitate the young righty, who had worked into a little trouble after Kepler singled. Ehire Adrianza doubled home Kepler, Mauer singled Adrianza to third and then Mauer took second on a wild pitch strikeout where Jorge Polanco was unable to hold up.
But with his offense stymied by Odorizzi, Boone likely felt as though a second and possibly a third run could have been the knockout punch for his usually powerful offense. So he went to get his righty at just 83 pitches. David Robertson came on to get Eddie Rosario to tap back to the mound and get out of the jam, but with the Yankees trailing 1-0 heading into the seventh.
Odorizzi was extremely complimentary of the youngster Severino during his postgame remarks.
“I mean 98 to 100 with a good slider and from what I remember him as, he had a little better control of his slider,” Odorizzi said with the precision of a meticulously curated scouting report. “Today he was a little erratic. But at the same time, even when it’s erratic, he still throws 100, so it’s going to be hard to cage the slider.
“He’s going to be perfectly fine moving forward. I don’t think he’s that far off. He just maybe needs one game for it to click with his offspeed pitches, because his fastball is always going to be there.”
Odorizzi somewhat surprisingly went back out for the seventh with his pitch count at 102 pitches, but he coolly navigated the 3-4-5 spots in the Yankees order — Miguel Andujar, Giancarlo Stanton and Didi Gregorius — like a hot knife through butter, setting down the side on just seven pitches.
Odorizzi went back out for the eighth at 109 pitches, and got Gary Sanchez to strike out swinging after walking him earlier.
But after a Luke Voit walk, Greg Bird ripped a double to deep center that fell in between Jake Cave and Robbie Grossman. Perhaps it’s poetic, cruel irony that it had a hit probability of just 54 percent according to Statcast — perhaps a ball that could have been tracked down by Byron Buxton?
We’ll never know, but it’s also worth noting that Cave was shaded toward right field, and hit probability doesn’t take that into account.
As soon as Voit touched the plate, Molitor went to get his righty, who walked off the mound to a cascade of applause and doffed his cap to a cheering crowd announced at 24,134 — not too bad for a school night.
3-1 score, and that’s a series victory for the #MNTwins over the Yankees!
— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) September 13, 2018
The end result was a career-high-tying 120 pitches — and 69 strikes — but Odorizzi and Molitor both insisted that if the no-hitter was still intact, he’d have gone back out for the ninth.
“Yes,” Molitor said point-blank when asked Odorizzi could have coaxed him into letting him back out there. “I think where we were, and the fact that you saw there in the eighth inning he wasn’t throwing a ton of fastballs; he was just trying to trick them, if you will, to try and find ways to get outs.
— FOX Sports North (@fsnorth) September 13, 2018
“I mean, you look at the game and the plays that we made, combined with some relatively long fly balls that stayed in the park, it was just one of those nights you thought the way things were going, he just might find a way to get it done. It just didn’t work out.”
Odorizzi’s answer wasn’t far from that, either.
“Absolutely,” the righty echoed about a potential ninth-inning assignment. “What’s the difference between 120 and 140 (pitches)? Not much. You’re going to be sore the next day anyway. There’s not too many chances you get to do something that special. You’ll never know how many it would have taken, but I appreciate what (Molitor) was willing to do for me in letting me go out there.”
But while Odorizzi gave back the run the Twins scored earlier, it didn’t tie the game because the Twins had scratched across two runs of their own a half-inning earlier.
Enter Astudillo — again.
After Cave hit a two-out double to right, Astudillo snuck a seeing-eye single up the middle to bring him home. When Kepler followed with a booming double to left-center — just off the glove of center fielder Aaron Hicks — most everyone in the park assumed Astudillo would scoot home to give the Twins a 3-0 lead.
Or at least that’s what Molitor thought. But the cameras caught Astudillo doing his best Big Bad Wolf impersonation around the third-base bag, and the GIFs and photos made him the face that launched a thousand memes — though it was for good reason.
The absolute unit that could. pic.twitter.com/r2a5uj9E7o
— MLB (@MLB) September 13, 2018
— Anthony Miller (@AnthonyOMiller) September 13, 2018
Astudillo got home safely, but not before Molitor grew more and more concerned as the play developed.
“Man, I don’t know,” Molitor said kind of sheepishly. “That was painful to watch that jaunt around the bases. When they miss the dive, you think he’s going to score fairly easily, and then you see Gregorius is going to have a chance. But his hit was big, to get that second run on the single up the middle.”
But Molitor came full-circle and lauded Astudillo for stepping in behind the plate in a pinch.
“It would have been a rare combination, for catchers to combine on a no-hitter; I don’t know how many times that’s happened. But he did a nice job when Mitch came out, and the few games he’s caught so far, he looks good back there.”
Astudillo had a good sense of humor about his trek around the bases.
“I just wanted to show that chubby people also run.”
I think I’m qualified to say this: Chubby people everywhere thank you, sir.
- Initial tests for Garver ruled out a concussion — at least for the time being. “He took a shot,” Molitor said. “Maybe in hindsight. …he said he wanted to try to finish the inning. He got his bell rung pretty good. The tests are looking good right now in terms of concussion symptoms. It think we feel pretty good about it, but you never know. We’ll follow up again tomorrow and see how he progresses. But right now we feel pretty good about him being OK.”
- Miguel Sano told Zone Coverage he was traveling with the Twins on the road, so that seems at least semi-encouraging that he could return to the lineup sometime during the trip. He hasn’t played since injuring his knee on the second-base bag in Houston on the last road trip.
- Mauer (2-for-4) had his 35th multi-hit game of the season, and addressed retirement speculation that cropped up after a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune was published Wednesday night, suggesting that the 35-year-old first baseman has considered potentially retiring at season’s end. “I’m just planning on trying to win tomorrow night,” Mauer said. “Try to enjoy the last couple of weeks of the season and just take a deep breath and go from there. I want to enjoy coming every day and competing and taking time once the season ends and kind of go over the year like I normally would and go from there.”
- Kepler had his 25th multi-hit game, and in doing so added his 29th double of the year.