The Minnesota Twins scratched across three runs in the game’s first two innings, then scored the only run that came afterward in the eighth on the way to a 4-1 win over the Houston Astros at frigid Target Field on Tuesday night.
Jake Odorizzi channeled his inner Lance Lynn from the night before, but found his release point and cruised through the final three innings after wobbling early, and the bullpen — as it has for most of the season — closed it out with three solid innings to push the Twins to 5-4 on the season.
Here’s what we saw from our vantage point:
Brian Dozier had a whale of a ballgame
Not only did Dozier reach all five times he came to the plate to push his season line to .306/.419/.667, but he also made an insane defensive play in the ninth inning and also picked up third base on a really nice baserunning play the half-inning beforehand.
Joe Mauer dropped a single into left to score Mitch Garver, and with the Astros in the shift, third base was left unoccupied. Dozier ran stride for stride with Carlos Correa, who was heading over to cover the bag, but there was no way left fielder Evan Gattis — who entered after hitting for Josh Reddick — had a play on him.
In the ninth with Fernando Rodney on the mound, Astros center fielder Jake Marisnick grounded a ball back up the middle that Dozier — all in one fluid motion — somehow corraled and flipped to get the out at second base. It doesn’t look like anyone grabbed a video or GIF of it, but it was a terrific play all around.
Logan Morrison is on the verge of breaking out
He may be hitting just .074/.167/.111 on the season — and that’s after hitting a single in Tuesday’s game — but he’s absolutely crushed the ball in recent games, and that should pay dividends moving forward.
Morrison’s groundout in the first came off the bat at 110.2 mph, and his single in the third was a sizzling 109.7. Only one ball all night was hit harder than those, a 110.9 mph smash off the bat of Garver in the second that went for a single off Astros starter Dallas Keuchel.
Odorizzi pitched his ass off
Like Lynn the night before, Odorizzi played the role of embattled Twins starter with issues commanding the strike zone. Odorizzi didn’t have the strikeouts to show for it, but he managed to give up just one earned run with four strikeouts while still issuing five walks and allowing 10 baserunners altogether. Odorizzi got 11 swinging strikes on his 99 pitches according to ESPN, and managed to throw 61 strikes — an impressive number considering how things started.
As memory serves, Odorizzi’s 50th pitch came with 26 strikes and 24 balls. If that’s correct, he went the rest of the way with 35 strikes and 14 balls. Both the split and the four-seam fastball got four swinging strikes for Odorizzi according to Brooks Baseball, which again means for the second night that a Twins starter had the fastball working fairly well. Odorizzi and Keuchel was kind of a unique battle as well, considering both rarely broke 90 mph with their fastballs, instead relying on location, pitch mix and other finer points of the art rather than just blowing the ball by batters.
Dozier said he hoped some of the younger guys were watching how Odorizzi battled, and true enough, it was the kind of night that might have snowballed on a lesser pitcher. This Twins rotation is vastly improved in that respect.
This bullpen is incredible compared to recent years, even with Addison Reed unavailable due to strep throat
Ryan Pressly, Zach Duke and Rodney combined for three scoreless innings, and with a little back-of-the-napkin math we find that Twins relievers have allowed just two earned runs over seven innings the last two nights, and outside of a bit of a hiccup against the Mariners have been very, very good. The walk numbers need to come down, but the Twins came into Tuesday well over a strikeout per inning (9.7 K/9) from their relievers — the 10th-best rate in the game.
If Pressly takes the next step forward, there’s a lot of depth here.
Rodney is a trip — in more ways than one
Uh, so this was literally his first pitch on Tuesday night. Or, attempt to pitch:
Also, this is his entrance when he comes into games at Target Field:
I’m not being the least bit cavalier when I say people with epileptic tendencies probably shouldn’t stare directly into this thing.
Nevertheless, Rodney pitched a clean ninth inning, picking up his second save of the year, 302nd of his career and his second at Target Field as a Twin.
Mauer is blistering hot
Mauer reached four times — two hits, two walks — and his hitting an obscene .407/.543/.556 on the year. Between him and Dozier, the 1-2 spots combined to reach base nine times against the Astros on Tuesday night.