NEW YORK – The Twins returned home Wednesday pleased with a winning road trip. At the same time, their heads had to be spinning about how it ended.
They lost 9-6 to the Mets following one of their more bizarre half-innings of baseball. They went 4-3 on the trip to Kansas City, Philadelphia and New York, but it ended amid a blizzard of walks that fueled the Mets’ six-run fifth inning.
“It essentially just came down to strike-throwing,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Any time we struggle as a group to throw strikes, that’s going to happen.”
Righthander Jake Odorizzi, after lasting just two-thirds of an inning on Friday in Philadelphia, found a groove and tossed four hitless innings.
Then the Mets scored six runs on the just two hits, as even NASA’s best GPS system would not have helped Twins pitchers locate the plate.
The Twins led 1-0 in the fifth, two innings after Max Kepler’s RBI single opened the scoring. Trevor Hildenberger began to warm up, despite Odorizzi throwing a 49-pitch no-hitter. Baldelli said he planned to pinch hit Marwin Gonzalez for Odorizzi if Byron Buxton reached base. Hildenberger would pitch the fifth and then Martin Perez would start the sixth. It’s the piggyback role Perez has been in until he can join the rotation as the fifth starter next week.
But Buxton struck out to end the fourth. So Hildenberger sat down, and Odorizzi went back out.
“The National League game does pose problems for that plan,” Baldelli said. “Nothing is as clean as it would be in typical American League games so we had to work through that.”
Jeff McNeil singled to left with one out for the Mets’ first hit. Odorizzi suddenly lost command and walked the bases loaded.
While facing Mets righthander Noah Syndergaard, Odorizzi uncorked a wild pitch but got lucky as it caromed back to catcher Mitch Garver, who threw to Odorizzi, who was covering home plate. McNeil tried to return to third but was thrown out.
But Odorizzi walked Syndergaard to reload the bases, forcing Baldelli to go to his bullpen.
He didn’t choose Adalberto Mejia — he pitched Tuesday — or Taylor Rogers. He called upon rookie lefthander Andrew Vasquez, who had been called up that morning.
“That’s the role he’s here to fill,” Baldelli said, “and we believe in him. And that’s why we went to him.”
Vasquez hit swing-happy Brandon Nimmo, forcing in a run.
He walked Pete Alonso on six pitches, forcing in a second run.
He walked Robinson Cano on four pitches, forcing in a third run. The Mets took a 3-1 lead.
That was all for Vasquez.
“I wanted to attack and get the out and get out of the jam,” said Vasquez, whose ERA is infinity, “and unfortunately I just didn’t have my stuff today so that’s about it.”
Hildenberger, who had stranded all eight of his inherited runners entering the game, walked Michael Conforto to force in a run, then gave up a two-run single to former Twin Wilson Ramos. New York led 6-1 — on two hits, a six-pack of walks and one hit batter.
According to Elias Sports, the Mets are the first team since the 1994 Yankees to have seven straight batters reach without a hit or error.
The Mets added three more runs in the seventh, off Perez, before the Twins scored four runs in the eighth to make it 9-5. Mitch Garver homered in the ninth.
The Twins have a scheduled off day on Thursday, already their fifth of the year. But they could use one after this collapse.
“It’s not too often you see something like that happen and just about every run scores,” Odorizzi said. “I’ll be happy to get back to American League-style baseball, I can tell you that much.”