Jake Odorizzi noticed extra TV trucks in the parking lot on his way into work Monday afternoon. The media contingent inside the home clubhouse at Target Field, he estimated, was the largest in his two seasons with the Twins.
Not that he really needed a reminder of the opponent, or the importance of a three-game series against the big, bad wolf.
“Obviously, there’s a big spotlight on this series,” Odorizzi said. “For good reason.”
Every visit by the New York Yankees brings buzz. This one carries buzz and significance.
The Yankees own the best record in the American League. The Twins are third in the AL standings. The show matched the hype.
Paying customers and those who watched on television were treated to a shootout that included a triple play, a catcher’s interference RBI with bases loaded, eight combined home runs and a sweaty-palm ninth inning that ended on a comebacker to Taylor Rogers to preserve an 8-6 victory by the Twins.
What a way to spend a summer evening.
“This is the type of environment you want to pitch in.”
Big crowd, postcard weather, wacky plays and a home run derby between two of the best teams in baseball. It was meaningful late July baseball, and the Twins rose to the moment with a mature performance that looked a lot like their early-season outings.
One series isn’t defining and there’s danger in overselling one game, but one game can be revealing. The Twins showed some moxie on the heels of a hard-fought series against the Oakland A’s.
They bashed home runs, snuffed out rallies with defense and the bullpen, well, for one day the bullpen earned praise instead of scorn.
“This could be a depiction of what’s going to be going on later in the year,” Odorizzi said before the game.
He was alluding to the playoffs. The past week has felt like a sneak peek with seesaw games and tense finishes. First the A’s, now the Yankees.
The Twins traded haymakers with the A’s until exhaustion that ended in a 2-2 series split.
“Definitely that series you enjoy, it’s fun, you want the challenge,” designated hitter Nelson Cruz said. “You want to be pushed and see what the guys can do in a tough situation.”
His teammates brought that same fight to the series opener against baseball’s ultimate litmus test. The current Twins don’t care about — heck, some of them probably don’t even know about — the team’s tortured playoff history against the Yankees. But this is their chance to see how they measure up.
“This is the type of environment you want to pitch in,” said Odorizzi, scheduled to start Wednesday’s series finale.
A stretch of uneven play allowed Cleveland to slice their division lead to three games. Fans are restless, understandably.
“It’s a little too early to start standings watching,” Odorizzi said.
Good luck convincing people of that. Losing a double-digit lead in the division has pushed fans into all-out standings watching mode.
Not Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, Captain Cool, who probably would pick “Don’t Worry Be Happy” if managers had walk-up songs. Baldelli celebrated Sunday’s heart-pounding walk-off win by watching “The West Wing” on Netflix. Apparently, he’s a big fan of the show.
Baldelli’s group answered every threat thrown at them Monday without a hint of panic.
And the bullpen allowed only one run in five innings.
Hard to top that one in entertainment value.
“If we want to be in contention for playoffs and getting deep in the playoffs, we’re going to be playing a lot of good teams,” Odorizzi said. “We need to be at our best pretty much from now until the end of the year.”