MINNEAPOLIS — The starting pitching for Minnesota has been stellar, thanks to some strategic adjustments and natural improvement by several members of the rotation.
All those home runs by the Twins have sure helped, too.
Jake Odorizzi stretched his scoreless streak to 20 innings with seven frames of one-hit ball, Max Kepler and Mitch Garver homered, and the thriving Twins beat the Detroit Tigers 6-0 on Friday night.
"With this offense, we're never out of a game. It's a fun team to be a part of right now, and as the summer goes on, it'll be even more enjoyable," Odorizzi said.
Odorizzi (5-2) retired his last 20 batters after a first-inning double by Christin Stewart, striking out five without a walk while lowering his ERA to a career-best 2.32. The right-hander beat the Yankees in New York with six shutout innings last weekend and defeated the Houston Astros with seven scoreless innings in his turn before that. He's relied on his slider and cut fastball more than ever with remarkable results.
"As a pitcher, when you know what a pitch is going to do, it gives you a lot more confidence to throw it," said Odorizzi, who has won each of his last five starts.
Jose Berrios, Martin Perez and more recently Kyle Gibson have been just as good.
"Every time I catch them, it seems like it's the best outing I've seen," Garver said. "I don't know how far they can carry that, but I'm just impressed."
Jorge Polanco drove in three, including a two-run double in the third for the Twins (24-12), who have the best record in the majors. They are 12 games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2010 season.
Garver, part of a trio of catchers who have collectively been the most productive offensively in baseball this season, hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning off Tyson Ross (1-5) for his eighth shot in 21 games. Garver also drew three walks. Kepler went deep in the fifth for the Twins, who entered the evening ranked fourth in the majors in homers and are on pace to smash their team record (225 in 1963).
"I came into this season looking to be that force in the lineup," Garver said.
The Tigers were blanked for the second straight game and an American League-most fifth time this season.
Detroit's rotation has been decent, but Ross has bogged it down. The right-hander gave up six runs in five innings with four walks and one hit batter with only two strikeouts, pushing his ERA up to 6.11.
"He's been there and done it," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's just misfiring."
As Marwin Gonzalez beat out an infield single in the sixth, Ross threw wildly past first baseman Niko Goodrum, who bruised Gonzalez's face with his leg as he descended from his jump to try to catch the ball. Both players left the game. Gonzalez showed no signs of a concussion. Goodrum bruised his right knee.
"He's very sore. They had it checked out, X-rays, the whole package, and everything came back negative," Gardenhire said.
STARTING TO FILL UP
The announced attendance was 26,789, the second-largest of the season at Target Field with a first-pitch temperature of 60 degrees and ample sunshine. The Twins held a flash sale this week for their 12 remaining games in May, with $5 seats available in the upper deck outfield sections without processing fees. They sold 20,000 in about 20 hours. Then another 12,000 standing room tickets were snatched up in less than a day.
With a season ticket base eroded by fan apathy from an average of 91 losses over the previous eight seasons, the Twins played in front of the eight smallest crowds in Target Field history — all under 15,000 — over their first 15 home games. Cold, damp April weather didn't help. The Twins entered the weekend ranked 23rd out of 30 major league teams in average attendance (16,843 tickets sold per game).
Tigers: Stewart, making his first start since April 17 after suffering a strained right quadriceps, batted second for his highest position in the lineup this season.
Twins: 3B Miguel Sano has been moved up to Triple-A Rochester on his extended rehab assignment for a severe cut on his right heel that has kept him out all season. Baldelli wouldn't put a timetable on his return, but he made next week sound realistic.
The Tigers will start RHP Spencer Turnbull (2-2, 2.31 ERA) in the split doubleheader Saturday that was scheduled to make up the April 12 matchup postponed by wintry weather. LHP Gregory Soto is slated to make his major league debut while taking the mound in the second game.
RHP Michael Pineda (2-3, 6.09 ERA) will pitch the first game for the Twins. RHP Kohl Stewart (0-1, 7.50 ERA) will be promoted from Triple-A Rochester to start the nightcap.