Jake Odorizzi wasn’t in Minnesota when Brett Favre threw the interception or Gary Anderson missed the field goal. He has no memory of the North Stars moving to Dallas. He wasn’t even alive when Fran Tarkenton went 0-for-3 in Super Bowls.
But Odorizzi has been here long enough to recognize the Minnesota sports instinct: Something bad is about to happen. And he wanted to fix all that on Saturday for “the city that’s in panic mode right now” over a lost 11½-game lead.
“Somebody’s got to apply the tourniquet at some point,” the righthander said after shutting out the Indians for 5⅔ innings and pitching the Twins to a rain-delayed 4-1 victory before an announced 35,268 at Target Field. “Might as well be me.”
The victory restored the Twins alone at the top of the AL Central after a one-day tie, ended their losing streak at four and perhaps calmed, for the moment, the sense of foreboding around this team. That was Odorizzi’s goal: Win a game. And reassure the hysterical.
“We’re not Minnesota people that have gone through [tough times]. We’re here to win, and we’re a pretty darn good team so far this year,” Odorizzi said after improving to 13-5 on the season. “It’s easy to find panic. But there’s no panic in here.”
The righthander picked the perfect night to deal, and then preach, and not just because the Twins hadn’t even held a lead since Monday night, four ugly losses ago. He also lived that don’t-panic maxim, by pitching into and out of trouble, time after time. Cleveland put runners in scoring position in all six innings he started, thanks to the six hits and four walks he gave up. But Odorizzi always stopped one step short of the ledge, holding the Indians to a 1-for-12 night with runners in scoring position, stranding runners on third base in four innings.
“He’s looked good. In some moments where we’ve needed a big start, he’s been there,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “And doing it against a good team like the Indians makes it even more impressive. It was fun to watch him tonight.”
After four days of facing big deficits — they trailed 11-0, 7-0, 4-0 and 6-0 in their past four games — the Twins finally established their offense first, though it took awhile. Cleveland righthander Adam Plutko held the Twins to one hit while recording 11 outs, but with two outs in the third inning, the Twins finally broke through.
Mitch Garver hit a sharp ground ball down the third base line that just snuck under Jose Ramirez’s glove, allowing the Twins catcher to reach second base with a two-out double. Luis Arraez followed with a long at-bat, working the count full before driving a pitch to right-center. When it rolled to the wall, Arraez stretched it into an RBI triple, breaking the Twins’ streak of 39 consecutive innings without a lead.
“I just made adjustments, like any other at-bat,” the rookie said. “I was looking for my pitch. He left the changeup right down the middle, and I was able to connect with it in the gap.”
C.J. Cron then singled Arraez home, and Martin Gonzalez singled, too. And when Ehire Adrianza delivered the Twins’ fifth consecutive hit, a single to right, it appeared the Twins could add to their lead. But Yasiel Puig caught the ball on one hop, didn’t rush the throw, and nailed Cron easily with a perfect throw to the plate.
“It’s really wet out there [thanks to a soaking rain that delayed the game’s start by two hours], so in situations like that, you’re going to send the runner more times than not and challenge the outfield,” Baldelli said. “He made a great throw and ended the inning.”
The Twins added two more runs in their usual way — via home runs. Max Kepler led off the fifth inning by slicing a ball just beyond the flower pots atop the left field wall, his 32nd home run on the season, but just his second to left field in his five-year career. And Marwin Gonzalez led off the sixth the same way, with an opposite-field homer that carried into the Indians bullpen.
All that was left was for Sergio Romo and Taylor Rogers to finish out the game (though Romo surrendered a mammoth, but ultimately harmless, solo home run to Puig), and for Odorizzi to spread his message of peace and harmony.
“I’m pretty new to Minnesota but I know there’s been some tough years in multiple sports, and it just kind of carries over to this,” he said. “We know what type of team we are, and at some point, [the Indians are] going to slow down and not win at an .800 clip or whatever they’ve been doing. We’ve got to weather the storm and hopefully go back up.
“Just hang in there,” he said. “Everything is going to be fine.”