The Twins’ offense will get plenty of attention after scoring 12 runs and hitting four more home runs in a 12-2 win Sunday in Detroit, but the real story continues to be Jake Odorizzi.
The 29-year-old righthander gave up one run and five hits with a walk and eight strikeouts in six innings to earn his ninth consecutive victory to improve to 9-2 on the season. Odorizzi dropped his American League-leading earned run average to 1.92.
How good has Odorizzi been this season? The earned run he gave up on Sunday was the first he has surrendered since May 15 against the Los Angeles Angels. Odorizzi had gone three consecutive starts without giving up an earned run and has now allowed four earned runs in his past eight starts.
Odorizzi had a rough first season with the Twins in 2018, going 7-10 with a 4.49 ERA, and was 0-2 with a 6.35 ERA in his first three starts this year. But since giving up one run and six hits in 5.2 innings in a 4-1 victory over Toronto on April 17, Odorizzi has been one of the best pitchers in the big leagues.
“We talk about Jake’s strengths and how he’s doing, what he’s doing right now, he is a guy who has a fastball that’s a weapon,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli told reporters in Detroit. “He knows how to pitch with it. It’s not a one-dimensional thing either where he just goes out there and throws as if he’s one of those guys that relies on velocity or one particular (thing).
“He pitches with it. He can make it do different things. He actually even threw, I believe to get maybe a strikeout or two, his two-seamer. From the dugout, it looked like this was a pitch he went to when he needed to kind of give the hitter a different look. He has great feel for what he’s doing out there and it leads to just making good adjustments. That’s what leads to getting outs.”
Odorizzi is now getting enough outs that starting the All-Star Game next month in Cleveland isn’t out of the question.
THE BOOMSTICK STRIKES
The Twins went 15-4 during Nelson Cruz’s longer-than-expected stint on the 10-day injured list that was a result of a strained left wrist. So how necessary was the veteran designated hitter to the Twins’ lineup?
After going 0-for-4 (with three strikeouts) in his return on Tuesday in Cleveland, Cruz has seven hits in 17 at-bats and four have been home runs. Those four homers have come in consecutive games. On Sunday, Cruz had three hits in six at-bats.
The Twins took a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning thanks in large part to Cruz’s two-run shot.
“He seemed really locked in from the beginning of the game today,” Baldelli said of Cruz. “Had some really good swings. He even missed a couple of pitches today on quality swings. I think he looks, not just fine, I think he looks really good at the plate. He’s laying off some tough pitches. He’s just doing his thing. You see what happens. The way he attack the ball is very unique and the certain pitches he can get the barrel to is unique. That’s why he’s one of the best hitters in the game.”
Cruz now has 371 home runs in his 15-year career.
THE TWINS’ HITMEN
So how good is this Twins’ lineup?
Here’s the answer: The bottom three hitters in the order on Sunday went a combined 6-for-13 with six runs and three RBIs. This included home runs from third baseman Miguel Sano (batting seventh) and center fielder Byron Buxton (batting ninth).
The Twins had 17 hits, including two from Sano, two from Ehire Adrianza (batting eighth) and two from Buxton. Adrianza also mixed in a walk.
Sano struck out twice and now has 28 strikeouts in 65 at-bats. He also has 11 home runs.