The Cleveland Indians are really starting to make the Twins sweat. Not that they needed any help on Friday night.
Jake Odorizzi’s night against the Oakland Athletics included five innings, six hits, 94 degrees — and two uniforms. The Twins starter surrendered three runs, reliever Ryne Harper two more, and the Twins melted in the heat with a 5-3 loss at steamy Target Field.
“It was only like pitching in a rain forest. You felt like you were eating the air,” Odorizzi said after his fifth consecutive start of less than six innings. “I was just pouring sweat. I changed my jersey after the first inning, my hat [too], just took it all off and came back fresh. I was pretty drenched out there.”
So was everyone, of course, in the second-hottest game in Target Field history. But the A’s coped by peppering five Twins pitchers with 12 hits, winning for the 15th time in 19 games to move past Tampa Bay into the AL’s second wild-card spot.
The Twins? With their fourth loss in five games, their AL Central lead shriveled to only three games for the first time since May 6. That lead stood at 7½ games on Saturday night after the Twins won the first two games at Cleveland coming out of the All-Star break.
“We control our own destiny,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “That’s a good feeling, knowing if we go out there and do our jobs, we should be in good shape.”
True, and there is plenty of time to iron out these recent wrinkles. Odorizzi, for instance, said he settled down after his first-inning blast furnace, which began with Marcus Semien becoming the first Target Field visitor since the White Sox’s Yoan Moncada in June 2018 to lead off a game with a home run. He gave up two more hits and a walk in the inning, with Khris Davis’ two-out single up the middle putting the Twins in an early two-run hole.
“After that point, everything was normal and I had good results,” Odorizzi said. “I thought everything went pretty darn well. My pitch count being low [88 after five innings], I would have liked to continue, but it’s not my call. There will be a time where maybe that won’t be the case, but I definitely had more in the tank.”
But Baldelli, mindful of the strength-sapping humidity, turned to Harper, who has been one of the Twins’ more reliable relievers, to keep the score tied 3-3.
It didn’t go so well this time, though. Ramon Laureano hit Harper’s second pitch on one bounce over the wall in left-center for a double, and Davis followed with his second RBI single, putting Oakland back in front. Chad Pinter also singled home a run in Harper’s inning.
The Twins — who got a two-run homer in the third inning from Marwin Gonzalez — didn’t move a runner past first base after that. They had single baserunners in each inning from the fourth through eighth innings, but they went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position and fell to 5-22 when scoring three or fewer runs.
When Luis Arraez hit a one-out single in the eighth inning, the A’s brought on All-Star reliever Liam Hendriks. The former Twins righthander struck out Miguel Sano and Mitch Garver on three pitches each, then retired the side in order in the ninth for his seventh save.
“It was just probably one of those days for him where he’s just probably putting the ball maybe not quite where he wants it,” Baldelli said of Harper (3-2). “He’s a guy that we’re going to turn to many, many times going forward.”