Paul Molitor let Jake Odorizzi have his say. The manager was convinced by what he heard — and then watched.
Odorizzi had not recorded a seventh-inning out since last September, coincidentally while he was facing the Twins at Target Field, and when the righthander got through six innings with just 94 pitches, two runs and five hits, Molitor leaned toward keeping that streak alive.
“I was on the fence there a little bit about [him] trying to leave on a good note,” Molitor said. “I heard what he had to say. He was strong --- the fifth, sixth innings, he was throwing the ball well. We gave him a shot there, and he was clean in the seventh.”
That broke Odorizzi’s streak of 30 straight starts of six innings or shorter, the sixth-longest in baseball history, and his stretch of 26 straight starts in one seasons, the longest ever. And Odorizzi sounded like he could have pitched the eighth inning, too.
"I wouldn't say it's a breakthrough, but it's nice to get the results when you're feeling good and throwing the ball well,” Odorizzi said. “It's nice to have it match up with how you've been feeling.”
Odorizzi said he made a notable change in his gameplan on Friday: He pitched out of the stretch the entire game, even with no runners on base.
“It felt good warming up so I figured I'd take into the game. It's easy to repeat out of the stretch, especially with nobody on. It keeps it simple,” he said. “I’ll probably do it the next time out. It’s not really a scripted thing. It’s just whatever feels better for the day.”
It wasn’t a pitch that bothered Odorizzi, it was a throw. With Jed Lowrie on first base, he fielded a chopper from Khris Davis, spun toward second base — and threw the ball wide. The error wound up costing a run, a big one considering the game was still 2-1 in the eighth inning.
“I tried to lead [second baseman Logan Forsythe] a little bit so he wouldn’t have to go all the way to the base, when in reality I should have just thrown it right over the base,” Odorizzi said. “It was my mistake, I should have just thrown over the base. I was just trying to cut down time and be quick at the same time.”
Oakland’s bullpen has been one of the major reasons for the Athletics’ surge into the pennant race, and they showed why on Friday. Sean Manaea held the Twins to one unearned run over five innings, but he was gone the moment he gave up a leadoff single in the sixth.
Then the A’s used four pitchers for an inning apiece — including ex-Twins closer Fernando Rodney, who had 25 saves here until being traded on Aug. 9, in the seventh. Rodney struck out the side, walking his former catcher, Mitch Garver, but striking out Max Kepler, Robbie Grossman and Joe Mauer, all on nasty changeups.
In all, Lou Trivino, Rodney, Jeurys Familia and Shawn Kelley — that’s right, they didn’t even use closer Blake Treinen — held the Twins without a hit.
“That bullpen, you can see why they’re a tough team if they play with the lead,” Molitor said. “They have a lot of power arms. They shut us down at the end.”