Jake Odorizzi gave up allowing runs weeks ago. Now he’s swearing off baserunners altogether, too.
The righthander gave up a first-inning double to Christin Stewart on Friday, then retired the remaining 20 batters he faced, leading the first-place Twins to their fourth victory in a row, 6-0 over the overmatched Tigers at Target Field.
It was Odorizzi’s third consecutive start in which he didn’t allow a run, a streak of scoreless innings that now stretches to 20. It was also the sixth game in the 29-year-old’s career in which he allowed only one hit over seven or more innings — but it was the first in which he didn’t allow a walk.
“Odo [was] pretty incredible. Throwing the ball about as well and as dominant as anyone could possibly be,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Going out there and knowing we have that behind us, it helps us to swing the bats with confidence. It’s been a great run.”
Yeah, the batters don’t lack for confidence these days. Mitch Garver and Max Kepler each homered off Tigers starter Tyson Ross, Jorge Polanco drove in three runs with a double and a bases-loaded walk, and the Twins, as they have in all four homestands thus far, set a winning tone with a first-game victory.
Odorizzi had more to do with that than anyone. Relying on a four-seam fastball he could spot anywhere in the strike zone, the righthander kept elevating his pitches, forcing one harmless fly ball or pop-up after another. The Tigers hit only three ground balls, yet rarely threatened to hit a ball over Target Field’s fences as they went down in order six straight times against Odorizzi.
“Just pitch execution, really. Keeping guys off balance,” Odorizzi said. “I don’t want to give guys a certain location to look for or a certain speed.”
The only pitch that came close to being a mistake was a first-inning fly ball by Nicholas Castellanos, a sure double that Byron Buxton bounced off the center field wall to catch.
“If Buck can’t make the play on it, nobody’s going to make the play,” said Odorizzi, who waited at the dugout stairs when the inning ended to shake Buxton’s hand in gratitude. “You have to feel really good when you have a guy like that behind you.”
Odorizzi lowered his ERA to 2.32 with his seven strong innings, posting an 0.86 ERA over his last five starts totaling 31 ⅓ innings. Odorizzi (5-2), Jose Berrios (6-1) and Martin Perez (5-0) give the Twins three five-game winners through the season’s first 36 games for only the second time ever. Joe Mays, Brad Radke and Eric Milton had similarly strong starts to the 2001 season.
The Twins’ foursome of Odorizzi, Berrios, Perez and Kyle Gibson hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in a game since April 20 in Baltimore.
“That’s kind of crazy to think about. I can’t say enough about these guys. Every time I catch them it seems like it’s the best outing I’ve seen [from] them,” Garver said. “I don’t know how far they can carry that, but I’m just impressed in general.”
The victory came at a cost, however: Marwin Gonzalez left the game with a bruised face after colliding with Tigers first baseman Niko Goodrum while trying to beat out an infield hit in the sixth inning. Goodrum’s knee slammed into Gonzalez’s helmet, and the Twins’ third baseman laid on the ground for several minutes before rising and walking to the dugout.
Goodrum also left the game, having suffered a knee bruise.