The upgraded starting rotation was expected to power the Twins engine through the long season. Despite the lack of a true ace, the starters should be able to help extend winning streaks while limiting losing streaks.
To the Twins’ relief, the latter finally happened Saturday at Target Field, when Jake Odorizzi said eight was enough.
The righthander pitched six solid innings — which hasn’t been easy for a Twins starter of late — in leading his team to a 3-1 victory over the Reds. The win ended an eight-game losing streak, the Twins’ longest skid since dropping 13 in a row in August 2016, when they finished with 103 losses.
A six-inning outing was sorely needed for a rotation that has been knocked out of games early and, consequently, has exhausted the bullpen. The Twins on Saturday called up another pitcher from Class AAA Rochester in righthander Matt Magill. Once he appears in a game, he will be the 18th pitcher the Twins have used this season. Already.
Magill was not needed Saturday, as Odorizzi (2-2) gave up one run on five hits and two walks with three strikeouts. It was only the second time in the past seven games a Twins starter has gotten through six innings.
“You have these stretches in April, it’s a lot better than having them in August and September,” Odorizzi said. “We have plenty of time to make up for what we did. But we still have a lot of confidence.
“Our motto is, you keep continuing to act like a first-place team. You can’t waver just because a couple of games didn’t do our way.”
Odorizzi will get the credit for setting up a slump-busting victory, but the Twins didn’t care how they got back to winning — they just wanted to get there. The losing streak, which included three walkoff losses, was a team effort.
The outcomes were different Saturday. Odorizzi needed only 36 pitches to get through the first four innings, Zack Duke and Addison Reed worked scoreless innings and Fernando Rodney picked up the save after blowing his past three chances.
OK, Rodney walked the first batter on four pitches, walked the tying run on base with one out and needed second baseman Brian Dozier to make a splendid running catch on a dangerous blooper before retiring Jesse Winker on a popout to end the game. But it worked for a change.
“Enabling us to get to Duke and Reed and eventually Rodney,” manager Paul Molitor said. “It feels good to win a game. It’s hard. Sometimes these things, you build momentum in the wrong direction, and you have to find a way to stymie it.”
Cincinnati struck first, as Scott Schebler homered to right in the second inning — drawing some cheers from the stands, as the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native had supporters in attendance. For Odorizzi, he hadn’t thrown a curveball in 20 pitches and then watched Schebler crush it. He threw very few the rest of the game.
“There’s no reason be stubborn,” Odorizzi said. “If something else is working, you need to go to it.”
The Twins got to Reds righthander Sal Romano in the fourth when, with a man on, Eduardo Escobar doubled to right. Eddie Rosario scored from first, and Escobar ended up at third when Winker dropped the ball as he attempted to pick it up. Escobar then scored on Robbie Grossman’s sacrifice fly.
The Twins added a run in the fifth when catcher Mitch Garver deposited a Romano pitch into the left-field seats. They played keepaway from there. Duke entered after a leadoff double in the seventh and ended up stranding two runners in what was a pivotal moment. Reed walked the first batter in the eighth but then got a double-play grounder. That led to the successful Fernando Rodney Experience in the ninth.
“The way it ended today, with some adversity and pitching through it where in a couple games it had collapsed,” Odorizzi said. “To get out of it means even more to get this win.”