Two or three dozen cheering fans poured out of the Target Field stands in short right field shortly after the final out of the Twins' 3-0 loss to the Cubs on Wednesday. Joe Ryan jogged down the line and gleefully started hugging them all. Some were wearing Twins jerseys with "Ryan 74" on the back, many were wearing "Joe Ryan Fan Club" T-shirts.

"Everyone from Marin (Calif.) came out! It was great!," Ryan said while the postgame party went on. "Parents, girlfriend, all my childhood friends, played water polo with [some], played baseball with them. My parents' friends came out. … The guy who gave me [my first car, a 1971 Triumph] was here!"

If the pool of people rooting for the Twins' rookie righthander was large — around 75, Ryan guessed — before Wednesday, just imagine how large it will be if he lives up to the reputation for strike-throwing and the passion for fun that he displayed in his debut. Ryan's first major league inning included eight pitches, all strikes, and he retired the Cubs in order in four of his five innings.

He made only one real mistake, a third-inning high fastball to Frank Schwindel, but it landed in the left-field seats, scoring the night's only three runs and spoiling the outcome, but hardly the enthusiasm, of Joe Ryan Night. It was a loss, but the most hopeful one the Twins have endured in awhile.

"I was executing my pitches. I mis-executed a little bit too much in the third and got into some not-so-great counts. And then, you've got to execute that pitch [to Schwindel]," said the 25-year-old rookie, one of two pitchers the Twins obtained from Tampa Bay in July for Nelson Cruz. "Staying on that [pitch] a little bit more is the only thing that I was a little bit annoyed with. But it was amazing. It was a great experience. I loved it."

Yes, Ryan's first game in the majors was largely a success, but Justin Steele's 15th MLB game was even better. The Cubs' rookie righthander outpitched the Twins', collecting the victory with five shutout innings that were supported by Adbert Alzolay's four scoreless innings in relief.

"Those guys have really good stuff, swing-and-miss major-league stuff," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said after the Cubs completed a sweep of the two-game series. "Our bats were challenged by them and we didn't have the response."

BOXSCORE: Cubs 3, Twins 0

It didn't look for awhile like the Cubs had a response to Ryan, who three weeks ago helped Team USA earn a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics. After his 8-for-8 first inning, Ryan opened the second inning with three consecutive balls — then threw nine strikes in his next 10 pitches to retire the side again.

Only a walk to Alfonso Rivas, a one-out double to Andrew Romine and Schwindel's blast, all in the third inning, marred his night.

"The fastball looked like guys couldn't see it. I know Frankie hit the home run, jumped it well. but there were a lot of guys swinging through the fastball," Cubs manager David Ross said. "It looks like it's 96 [miles per hour] and it's coming out 91-92. He's got one of those fastballs that hitters don't see."

And one of those attitudes that fans will love.

"I had a little Jimi Hendrix rolling out [as he waked to the mound]. That was pretty sweet to fire me up. It was perfect, too, Purple Haze and the purple lighting all round the top" of the stadium, he gushed. "I kept looking at that, and every time I did, good things happened. 'Damn, this is amazing,' I went and told Wes [Johnson, the Twins' pitching coach]. 'Dude, that skyline is legit. We've got to keep that rolling.' "

Yeah, that's the Twins' hope, too.