Detroit Tigers left fielder Christin Stewart ripped a double off the wall in right field in the first inning of Friday night’s game at Target Field.
Then, for the next two hours, not a single Tigers hitter reached base.
Minnesota Twins starter Jake Odorizzi got Nicholas Castellanos to fly out to center and struck Miguel Cabrera out swinging to strand Stewart at third, and didn’t allow another baserunner before departing after seven scoreless innings.
Matt Magill and Fernando Romero took things the rest of the way, as Twins pitchers combined to retire 23 straight Tigers batters before mounting a small threat late with back-to-back singles to open the ninth.
However, Romero quickly righted the ship, and the Twins had a 6-0 win to improve to 24-12 on the season — marking the first time they’ve been 12 games over .500 since the end of the 2010 season.
The win pushed the Twins to 4.5 games up in the American League Central, and was Minnesota’s fourth in a row.
Here’s what I saw:
The turning point
After Ross cruised through the first two innings, he hit some turbulence in the second. Ross loaded the bases with a pair of walks and a single, and with the infield drawn in, Jorge Polanco hit a jam-shot double down the left-field line to score the game’s first two runs.
But the big boom — and we’ll go in depth on this in a second — was a towering, upper-deck home run from Garver in the fourth. After Gonzalez was hit by a 3-2 cutter on his left knee — not nearly his worst injury of the night — Garver followed by crushing a middle-middle 87 mph fastball 407 feet into the Minneapolis night.
Garver and Kepler had home runs in the fourth and fifth innings as the Twins had little trouble with Ross
Here’s visual evidence of the Garver home run:
“It’s a little bit of both adjustments, learning the league. There’s a lot to do with that,” Garver said. “Seeing pitches over and over again and recognizing what I can do to them. And then kind of regular playing time. I came into this season looking to be that force in the lineup, to drive in runs, put the ball in the air pull side. That’s what I came into the season wanting to do. I’ve been able to do that.”
Kepler followed with a laser in the fifth, just into the flower pots in right. The ball traveled 365 feet with a launch angle of 19 degrees.
The homer was Kepler’s eighth of the season.
Gonzalez and Niko Goodrum had a nasty collision at first base
Gonzalez hit a slow roller than Ross picked up and threw off-balance to first. The throw took Goodrum off the bag, and his knee collided with Gonzalez’s head in a scary, scary collision:
The collision also led to Gonzalez hitting his knee on his forehead as well, but Gonzalez showed no signs of a concussion after the game and is day-to-day.
“I think we lucked out in some ways,” Baldelli said. “He’s got a facial contusion. He’s showing no signs of any concussion-related symptoms. I think it’s a situation where I think we did luck out in a number of ways. He’s kind of hopping around back there and it seems like he’s doing alright. Once the game ended, obviously we went in there and checked on him to see how he was doing and he’s doing well.”
Buxton was terrific defensively
In the first inning, with Stewart on first, Odorizzi gave up a booming fly ball to deep left-center.
Buxton raced back, caught the ball while off his feet and then braced for a parachute-like landing onto some well-placed padding on the fence.
“Yeah, Buck, we talk about him changing the game, but he changes the momentum a lot with his defensive work,” Baldelli said. “The other team, they can put some good swings on the ball, all these guys can. These are big-league hitters.
“But it feels good, not just for all of us, especially for our pitchers, to know they can make a good pitch and someone can hit the ball hard out into the big outfield and our guys will make plays for them. But Buck definitely does change the game, and the way the other team’s momentum does kind of get halted some times because of the way he goes about his business.”
A veteran scribe noted that Odorizzi was waiting for Buxton when he came off the field for the inning with a hearty handshake, and Baldelli simply chuckled.
“Yeah, I’m not surprised,” he said. “Pitchers, I can say our guys definitely appreciate the work that our defenders give them. They make it a point to acknowledge them, and it’s great. That’s what makes everything go round.”
“Yeah, they were putting the ball in play early on, up and almost out of the zone, so anytime it goes to center, if Buck can’t make the play on it, nobody’s going to make the play on it,” Odorizzi said. “So you have to feel really good when you have a guy like that behind you.
“You can tell the balls that he’s tracking really well, and sometimes you need them to stay in just a little bit or just be close enough to the wall for him to make a play on it. He does such a good job of covering the gaps, going back on balls, and obviously his throwing arm is pretty elite. So there’s not too many things you couldn’t ask for out of him.”
Odorizzi continues to impress
Odorizzi’s seven scoreless innings extended his personal streak to 20 frames — the longest from a Twin since Ervin Santana had 22 scoreless in April 2017. Odorizzi touched 94 mph with his fastball, but felt his slider was also good as he allowed just the one baserunner all evening long.
“I think my slider was good today,” Odorizzi said. I feel like I located it well, got some weak contact, got my curveball over for strikes mainly and splits were consistent. That’s really all I can ask for, the consistency of pitches. As a pitcher when you know what a pitch is going to do, it gives you a lot more confidence to throw it and get the results that you want to get.”
Odorizzi was seen smiling in the dugout while talking to manager Rocco Baldelli after the seventh inning, but insists the two were having a light moment rather than the righty lobbying to go back out for another inning with 95 pitches thrown and a one-hitter in progress.
“We had a talk in Toronto about a different circumstance,” Odorizzi said. “It was similar to this but a little bit different, so I said, ‘What does this do for leverage?’ Just having a good time and trying to keep things loose. I think that’s another point of what we’re doing well, just showing up, we’re playing every day, not too high, not too low. Take care of business while we’re here and have a good time while we’re doing it.”
Ultimately, Odorizzi was nothing but happy about how the team is playing lately, coming off a dominant sweep of the Blue Jays in Toronto while carrying that effort into the opener against the Tigers.
“I think it’s pretty safe to say we’re playing good baseball,” he said. “Pitching is one thing, but the defense behind you affects a lot of things, and the way we’re playing, we’re not giving extra outs, we’re taking away extra bases. Buck, Rosie making great plays today, Marwin’s play, a groundball in the fourth inning, those type of plays don’t go unnoticed by a pitching staff, so we’re doing a really good job of limiting outs, and our offense is coming through it seems like daily.”
Notes & Quotes
- The Twins placed Martin Perez on the paternity list after Friday night’s game to make room for Saturday game two starter Kohl Stewart. Perez is still expected to be active for Sunday’s start in the series finale.
- The Twins have allowed just one run over the last four games.
- The shutout was the Twins’ fifth of the season. They had just seven in 2018.
- According to the game notes, Garver is one of just four Twins to ever go 1 for 1 with three or more walks. The others are Kent Hrbek (7/22/87), Harmon Killebrew (three times) and Rich Reese (8/7/70).
- Odorizzi on if he cares how he gets his outs: “Outs. Outs is part of the plan. I don’t care how I get ‘em, if it’s popouts, groundouts, strikeouts. Whatever gets me the most of ‘em in the least amount of pitches is what I’ll be happy with.”
- Baldelli on Odorizzi’s ‘campaign’ to stay in the game after seven innings: “Odo always wants to stay in the game. It’s something I expect and he almost expects to come to me too, but he totally understands where he was at in the start and what was going on.”
- Baldelli on if this is the best he’s seen Odorizzi: “I’ve seen him really good. I don’t know if I’ve seen him pitching like he’s pitching right now, but I’ve seen him really good for long periods of time. His breaking ball, and the way he’s using it, especially his harder breaking ball, is probably a little different right now than anything I’ve seen before. It gives him an added dimension to the guy that he already was, and that was a really good major-league pitcher.”
- Garver on the rotation, which ranks second in the AL in ERA: “I knew how good we could be. I’ve seen Odo dominate before and I’ve seen him struggle a little bit before. I think when we got together in spring training I noticed he’s putting together some really good starts right now because of what he’s done this offseason, kind of preparing for this. I think his stuff looks better. I think his confidence is better. He knows that he’s one of our most reliable guys. We get him out there and we’re doing well. Martín obviously, I saw what he could do in spring training and he’s carried that over, especially getting in the starting position instead of piggybacking. He’s way more comfortable with that and it shows.”