It’s tempting to say that not even Randy Johnson or Curt Schilling could win a game if their teammates provided them just two measly hits, except that Johnson actually did it. Twice.
But there’s no shame in not being a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and not much that Jake Odorizzi, who equaled a Johnson-and-Schilling achievement with a career-high 11 strikeouts, could do about winning with so little help. Odorizzi, along with Opening Day starter Jose Berrios, pitched his way into baseball history Saturday, but Cleveland beat the Twins anyway, 2-1 in a Target Field icebox.
Carlos Santana hit a perfectly-placed shift-beating ground-ball single in the ninth inning, moved up two bases on back-to-back wild pitches by Blake Parker, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Greg Allen, earning Cleveland a split of the season’s first two games despite managing only two runs and six hits in those 18 innings.
“We can’t ask for any more than we’ve gotten in these first two games,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said of his team’s pitching. But he can certainly ask for more out of his lineup.
Minnesota has just three runs and six hits over two days, the Cleveland combo of Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer basically matching the zeroes (if not quite the strikeouts) that Berrios and Odorizzi have put up.
After Berrios whiffed 10 Indians on Thursday, Odorizzi followed with his 11, becoming the second pair of pitchers in baseball history ever to reach double-digits in the first two games of a season.
The first duo to achieve it, back in 2001: Johnson, a Hall of Famer since 2015, and Schilling, who missed election by a mere 60 votes in January. Oh, and in case you’re a believer that history repeats: the Diamondbacks won the World Series that fall.
“It was an exceptional start, again, for us. Odo looked great from the beginning,” Baldelli said of his starter, who struck out at least one batter in all six of his innings.
But the offense? Bauer, who pitched seven innings of one-hit ball, was responsible for that, the manager said.
“He’s an ace-caliber pitcher, too,” Baldelli said. “When you’re facing really good pitching like we are now, [you miss] just a couple of hits here and there. Once we get into a groove and get into some better weather, it’ll be OK.”
Oh yes, the weather. After a gorgeous afternoon for the opener, March reappeared on Saturday. Game-time temperature was 34 degrees, tying for the third-coldest game ever at Target Field, and the wind was ceaseless, blustery and bone-chilling. Wind chill dropped to around 23 degrees during the game, likely affecting the hitters trying to catch up to Odorizzi and Bauer’s fastballs.
The cold may have helped decide the game, actually. Parker, used to pitching in Anaheim and more recently Fort Myers, had difficulty gripping his splitter in the ninth inning, perhaps accounting for those critical wild pitches that put Santana in position to score.
“I can’t say if it was or if it wasn’t. It was a little bit cold, the balls were a little bit slick, but I’ve got to go out there and make pitches,” Parker, a free-agent signee in January, said after his Twins’ debut. “A couple got away from me, and I put them in a great position to score a run, so that was on me.”
The Twins’ lone run against Bauer came in the third inning, when Polanco tripled and came home on a Nelson Cruz groundout.
They mounted a ninth-inning threat, also courtesy of the wintry gale blowing through the ballpark, a wind that pushed Byron Buxton’s popup to short right field out of the reach of second baseman Brad Miller. Buxton, hustling out of the box, reached second base standing up, but Indians closer (and Chaska native) Brad Hand struck out Max Kepler, got Jorge Polanco to fly out, and after intentionally walking Cruz and walking Eddie Rosario, retired Cron on a short fly to right.
It was a deflating ending for the Twins, who are now hitting .071 on the season, and the15,271 who braved the 34-degree cold.