ANAHEIM, CALIF. – Rocco Baldelli doesn't quite strike fear into the hearts of pitchers around the league with his penchant for pulling starters from the mound early. But when the Twins manager emerged from the Angel Stadium visiting dugout in the sixth inning Friday night, many probably assumed that would be the end of Tyler Mahle's outing. Baldelli did.
But not Mahle — despite having given up a leadoff walk and a two-out double to put runners on second and third.
"I had full confidence that I could get that next guy out," Mahle said. "And I had a feeling he wasn't going to take me out while he was walking out. And sure enough, he got up, and he's just like, asked how I was feeling. And I was like, 'Great. I think I'm good.' "
It wasn't so much what Mahle said as what he did that convinced Baldelli to keep the pitcher in the game, a game the Twins would go on to win 4-0 over the Angels.
"You're reading more, maybe, body language sometimes than what the pitcher actually tells you most of the time," Baldelli said. "And we don't do it very often, obviously. Most of the time the guys are going to say they want to stay in the game. But he seemed very relaxed and intent on pitching. He did not appear to be a guy that had any interest in coming out of the game."
With the confidence booster from his manager, Mahle went on to successfully end that inning and complete six scoreless innings. He admitted the slider he threw was "definitely too good of a pitch," but Taylor Ward still didn't quite barrel it and flew out to right field.
In only his second start with the Twins since coming from Cincinnati in a deadline-day trade, Mahle gave up only three hits and two walks while striking out six. Relievers Michael Fulmer, Jhoan Duran and Jorge Lopez completed the four-hit shutout.
Baldelli said when the Twins traded for Mahle, he had a long text conversation with Cincinnati manager David Bell about the righthander, who emphasized Mahle's longevity. Baldelli also said Mahle stays composed throughout his starts and looks the same if not better than when he begins the game.
It helped, too, that the Twins offense established a lead early. Gilberto Celestino hit a two-run homer in the second inning, his first home run this season. Gio Urshela added his own solo home run in the sixth. And Jose Miranda hit a leadoff double in the eighth before coming home on a Luis Arraez single to complete the quartet of runs, helping the Twins avoid their first four-game losing streak of the season and stay within 1½ games of Cleveland in the AL Central.
Celestino, though, credited Mahle with putting the team in a good position, especially coming off a string of tough losses, from the overturned out at the plate against Toronto on Sunday to the two big losses at the Dodgers on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"It was vital. Really important. Every game counts now moving forward," Celestino said of Mahle, in Spanish through an interpreter. "He executed all his pitches, attacked the hitters. He took the mound [Friday] with it in mind to win the game, and he did that."
Mahle had some extra motivation in the crowd to help him stay focused. The Newport Beach, Calif., native had too many friends and family in attendance to count. He had only pitched in front of a hometown crowd once before — when he was with Cincinnati in 2019, a 5-1 loss where he surrendered four runs on six hits, including two homers.
And to celebrate a much better performance just 20 minutes away from home — where he has stayed this entire whole road trip — Mahle did a most Californian activity:
He went to In-N-Out for an animal-style burger and fries with a Neapolitan shake.