The greatest visiting pitcher in Target Field history created another masterpiece Monday. Then Ehire Adrianza defaced it and Jake Odorizzi eclipsed it.
Justin Verlander, whose seven career victories, 89 strikeouts and 2.39 ERA are all the best by a visitor in the stadium’s 10 seasons, gave up only two hits over six innings, and with a spotless bullpen and the AL’s top-hitting team behind him, surely that was enough to coast to a victory, right?
Not this night. Verlander slipped up by putting a 3-2 fastball where Adrianza could torch it; Odorizzi kept the Astros even more off-balance than Verlander did the Twins; and Minnesota won its fourth in a row in unlikely fashion, 1-0 before a sparse crowd announced at 12,615.
“It’s hard not to be happy when we can win 1-0 against a really good team and a really good pitcher,” Odorizzi said of his third consecutive victory, and second in a row over Houston. “I made mistakes, might have got away with some. … I’m just glad I could do my part.”
He did more than that, outpitching a future Hall of Famer, and shutting down a team that scored 23 runs in three games vs. the Twins last week. Only twice Monday did the Astros manage to put a runner on second base, and in both instances Odorizzi responded with big pitches. In the first inning, he induced a weak popup from Yuli Gurriel that first baseman Marwin Gonzalez made a running catch of to end the inning, and in the sixth he struck out Carlos Correa and fooled Gurriel with a 3-2 fastball that the hitter didn’t even swing at.
“He had everything at his disposal, and he commanded the ball exceptionally well,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He seemed to have some good ride and carry on his fastball up in the zone when he wanted, and when he had to go to different sides of the plate, he could do that.”
It was Verlander who made the only real mistake of the night, but he probably didn’t see it coming. Adrianza is off to a slow start this season, and he entered with a .161 batting average, only one career hit off Verlander and the distinction of being the only position player who has been on the roster all season and hasn’t hit a home run.
“I was talking to Martin [Perez] last night, and he told me, ‘Hey, you’re the only Twins player that hasn’t hit a homer. You need one,’ ” said Adrianza, who was making only his eighth start of 2019. “Thank God I’ve got one now.”
And thank his own reflexes, too. Leading off the third inning, Adrianza got behind quickly by fouling off a couple of 94-mph fastballs. But he stayed patient, and worked the count full. When Verlander, who beat the Twins on Wednesday by giving up only four hits in eight innings, tried a 96-mph pitch at the top of the strike zone, Adrianza pounced. The ball landed 400 feet away, the Twins’ 50th homer of the year.
“He was throwing 3-2 breaking pitches [earlier], but my plan was to stick with the fastball,” Adrianza said. “He threw that fastball right in the middle, and I put a good swing on it.”
It seemed out of character for a player with only 12 career home runs, but Adrianza has also victimized Clayton Kershaw, Andy Pettitte and Blake Snell over the years, too.
“I’m not intimidated by anybody. That’s the mental part of baseball. No matter who’s pitching, you have to go up there and fight,” he said.
After a weekend of hitting howitzer shots against the Orioles, the Twins showed they can win when runs are scarce, too. Odorizzi became the fourth consecutive Twins starter to provide a quality start, needing only 86 pitches to get through seven innings.
And though he asked to stay in the game, he understood when Baldelli turned to Taylor Rogers for the eighth inning and Blake Parker for the ninth. Rogers struck out Michael Brantley to strand a runner on second, and Parker induced a double play that erased Correa after a leadoff single.