Beating the Yankees is rare enough around here, and twice in a row is almost unheard of. It would take a near-perfect performance for that to happen, right?
Jake Odorizzi wasn’t perfect. But he was close enough.
Odorizzi no-hit the Twins’ biggest nemesis for 7 1/3 innings on Wednesday, using a confounding mix of split-fingers and 94-mile-per-hour fastballs to squelch the Yankees’ powerful lineup while the Twins built a lead for him to protect. But after a one-out walk to Luke Voit in the eighth, Greg Bird spoiled Odorizzi’s bid for history by slashing a first-pitch fastball to the warning track in front of the bullpens, a double that scored a run and ended Odorizzi’s night.
Taylor Rogers and Trevor Hildenberger finished off the 3-1 victory, however, giving the Twins their first back-to-back wins over New York in one series since 2013.
“Just a good piece of hitting by [Bird]. Sometimes that’s how it goes,” Odorizzi said after his most suffocating performance with the Twins. “Just had that [no-hit] feeling tonight. Maybe sometimes down the road I’ll get lucky.”
There wasn’t much luck to this one, though the Twins, Odorizzi included, did make a handful of athletic defensive plays behind him, including a diving catch by Robbie Grossman. But mostly, Odorizzi just fooled the Yankees, a team he’d faced 15 times before. “We’ve seen each other a lot of times over the years, so it’s a game of feeling each other out. What are they trying to do? What am I doing against them? Who’s going to make the adjustment?” Odorizzi said. “I was trying to make pitches and try to get them to put the ball in play. And they just happened to be at somebody just about every time”
The real suspense, actually, didn’t involve the quality of his pitches, but the quantity. After completing five innings, which included two walks and four 3-2 counts, Odorizzi had thrown 88 pitches, and manager Paul Molitor had relievers warming up. But Odorizzi retired the Yankees on 14 pitches in the sixth inning, and he needed just seven to record three outs in the seventh, bringing his total to 109. Odorizzi received a big cheer when he trotted to the mound to pitch the eighth.
“I told him, 'This is one of those rare nights when you get in this type of area, doing something magical,’ ” said Molitor, who left Odorizzi in for a career-high 120 pitches, and said he would have granted him the ninth inning, too, if the no-hitter was still intact. “The plays we made, combined with some relatively long fly balls that stayed in the park — it was just one of those nights where you thought the way things were going, he might just find a way to get it done.”
Strangely, Odorizzi arguably was being outpitched for much of the night. Yankees ace Luis Severino allowed an infield single to Joe Mauer to lead off the first inning, quickly erased him on a double play, and proceeded to retire 15 consecutive Twins hitters. But in the sixth inning, Max Kepler broke the spell, and the Yankees’ shift, with a line-drive single to left, and he scored the game’s first run easily when Ehire Adrianza hooked a pitch into the right-field corner for a double.
An inning later, the Twins tagged Yankees reliever David Robertson for two more runs. Jake Cave started the rally with a one-out double, and scored on Willians Astudillo’s single. When Kepler followed with a blast to deep left-center that Aaron Hicks dove for but couldn’t quite reach, Astudillo chugged around the bases to give the Twins a three-run lead and turn all the focus to Odorizzi.
He opened the eighth by striking out Gary Sanchez on a splitter, and the announced crowd of 24,143 roared. He walked Voit on five pitches, and Odorizzi feared Molitor might lift him. Then he threw a two-seam fastball to Bird, and his shot at history — the Twins’ seventh no-hitter, and first since Francisco Liriano in 2011 — was over.
“Threw him a two-seamer. I knew he was going to be swinging early, so I just wanted to get him to hit it off the end,” Odorizzi said. “He got enough of it to put it out there. It stayed true, didn’t slice, so he put it in the perfect spot. I think if I throw a four-seamer, he probably hits it in the seats.”
Twins infielders gathered on the mound, joined by Molitor moments later. The ovation reached a crescendo as Odorizzi removed his cap and waved it to the fans in appreciation.
“It’s been a tough year, there’s no if ands or buts about it. So [it was] good to have one of these outings toward the end, feel the energy, show them kind of what I’m capable of doing,” said Odorizzi, now 6-10 on the season. “It was a good culmination of a lot of things coming together and hearing the love.”