The beauty of baseball is that anyone can be the hero on any given day.

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That dynamic was true on Tuesday night in Detroit, as light-hitting utility infielder Ehire Adrianza provided the gut punch that sent the Tigers reeling — a grand slam off reliever Warwick Saupold in the seventh inning.

Jake Odorizzi gutted his way through five innings, Adrianza provided the fatal blow and the bullpen weathered the storm as the Twins toppled the Tigers 6-4 to move to 29-34 on the season.

Here’s what we saw from our vantage point

Adrianza has been terrific lately, and was basically the entire Twins offense in this one

The grand slam speaks for itself, but Adrianza is up to .256/.320/.429 on the season after going 3-for-4 against the Tigers on Wednesday evening. Five of the Twins’ six runs came via Adrianza — four driven in, two scored, one of both on the salami — as his resurgence has been an interesting, if underrated storyline to this point. 

Adrianza has never been much of a hitter — career .241/.307/.358 line in 666 PA — and his baserunning has left something to be desired this year, but that’s a line that pairs well with solid defense at shortstop.

It hasn’t been a steady path for Adrianza to that batting line, however. In April, Adrianza hit a paltry .216/.293/.297. Since May 1, however, he’s hitting a solid .271/.330/.479 with 14 of his 26 hits going for extra bases:

  • nine doubles
  • one triple
  • three homers
Jun 12, 2018; Detroit, MI, USA; Minnesota Twins shortstop Ehire Adrianza (16) receives congratulations from first baseman Logan Morrison (99) and designated hitter Miguel Sano (22) after he hit a grand slam in the seventh inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Odorizzi didn’t have great command, but battled for five innings

Odorizzi didn’t get through the lineup three times — he faced 24 batters — which is not an uncommon thing, but to do so in just five innings suggests he battled in and out of trouble all night long.

That much was true for the entire pitching staff, as the Twins cashed in their opportunities, albeit limited, for most of the night  — just three runners left on base — while the Tigers were just 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 bases on the evening.

Jun 12, 2018; Detroit, MI, USA; Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi (12) pitches in the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Odorizzi allowed four hits and walked four batters in five innings, but still allowed just two earned runs in that span. In the first inning, Odorizzi stranded two batters after walking Miguel Cabrera and Nicholas Castellanos by getting a Jeimer Candelario pop out and a grounder to second from Victor Martinez.

Two more batters reached against Odorizzi in the second, and Candelario walked in the third — but the righty managed to hold the Tigers off the board still.

The fourth is when the Tigers got to Odorizzi a bit. After John Hicks singled to open the inning, Jose Iglesias hit a one-out triple to right to bring him home. Leonys Martin cashed him in with a sac fly, and the Tigers took their only lead of the night, 2-1.

Odorizzi came back to whiff Castellanos to get off the mound with Dixon Machado stranded at first, and came back to work around a Goodrum double to lead off the fifth with another scoreless inning.

Ultimately, Odorizzi had runners on in every inning, and the only real silver lining was that he got 13 swinging strikes on his 102 pitches — eight on the four-seam fastball (20 percent whiff rate), four on the slider (20 percent) and one on his splitter (5.9 percent).

The bullpen continues to be quite solid

Zach Duke gave up a pair of unearned runs, but it was otherwise smooth sailing for the Twins after Odorizzi turned the ball over to Ryan Pressly in the sixth:

  • four innings
  • two runs (zero earned)
  • six strikeouts
  • three hits
  • zero walks

Twins relievers have been fairly solid in June, compiling a 2.55 ERA (3.41 FIP) with 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings, 2.0 BB/9 and a 1.02 WHIP.  That ERA mark ranks eighth in the big leagues for the month of June.

Blaine Hardy had the Twins pretty well off-balance

Hardy has quietly put together a strong season as a swingman for the Tigers, but the odds seem good he’s staked a claim to say in the rotation for a while. Through 10 games (six starts), he has a 3.55 ERA and 27-9 K/BB ratio in 38 innings. 

Jun 12, 2018; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Blaine Hardy (36) pitches in the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Hardy is a prototypical crafty lefty, not cracking 90 once on any of his pitches on Tuesday night but mixing it up with four pitches all thrown with ample frequency.

The slider was his primary offering in this one, as he threw it 32 times. In fact, just 14 of his 85 pitches were fastballs as he mixed the change/slider/curve in and out of the strike zone.

He’s going to give up his fair share of contact, and he doesn’t induce grounders (40.9 percent this year, 41.9 percent career), but he’s managed to keep the ball in the park this year (0.7 HR/9) after struggling badly to do that last year (1.9 HR/9). That seems to be the biggest difference so far.

Notes

  • As of Wednesday morning, Eddie Rosario ranks among the top-10 players in Baseball Reference’s wins above replacement (3.0). Mike Trout (6.0) is first.
  • Cabrera suffered a season-ending injury — a ruptured biceps — on a swing in the third inning. He was replaced at first base by former Twin Niko Goodrum.
  • For the season, these are the numbers for the Twins bullpen: 4.08 ERA, 8.9 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and a groundball rate off 42.4 percent.

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