Jake Odorizzi’s eight-start stretch from April 29 to June 9 was one of the most impressive for any big-league starter this season. In 47.2 innings, the righthander gave up a total of four earned runs (three came in a single start), won seven times and posted an ERA of 0.76 in that span.
It was one of those “enjoy it while it lasts” stretches because it simply wasn’t going to be sustainable. Odorizzi gave up four runs and seven hits in six innings last Saturday against Kansas City at Target Field but still managed to get the victory in a 5-4 win. That gave him 10 consecutive wins — there was a May 20 no-decision mixed in in Anaheim — and meant he hadn’t lost since starting the season 0-2 with a 9-6 defeat against the Mets in New York.
That run of success came to an end on Thursday night in a 4-1 loss to the Royals in Kansas City. Odorizzi (10-3) suffered the loss, giving up four runs (three in the first inning) and eight hits with a walk and two strikeouts in four innings. It was Odorizzi’s second shortest outing of the season. He went two-thirds of an inning and gave up five runs (four earned) in a 10-4 loss on April 5 on a rainy, miserable night in Philadelphia.
Odorizzi struggled to get a feel for his pitches that night because of the conditions. There were no such issues on Thursday in Kansas City, where the game-time temperature was 87 degrees.
“I think he had trouble getting comfortable, probably in a few different ways,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He didn’t find really what he was looking for to really settle in. He usually pitches pretty well with his fastball. It’s generally a good weapon for him. When he couldn’t go to that to get the swings and misses and to really set up the rest of the at-bat, it became an issue. But he’s been so good for us and thrown the ball so well for so long that you know that at some point there’s going to be a start or two like this along the way. Tonight was that night.”
Designated hitter Jorge Polando gave Odorizzi a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning with his 11th home run, but the Royals scored three times in the bottom of the inning and added another in the fourth. Odorizzi departed having thrown 80 pitches, including 53 for strikes.
“They were aggressive, put balls in play, it was kind of the same thing as the last game,” Odorizzi said in postgame comments to Fox Sports North. “Balls that were put on the ground were kind of in that good spot. They were hitting the ball back up the middle, they weren’t trying to do too much with it. Games that (the ball is not hit) at guys, it’s going to be tough (and it) drives the pitch count up. I thought it was a simple approach and they got on top of fastballs. They did what they needed to do.
“Obviously it was a crappy first inning, but after that I felt a lot better. My off speed played pretty well today. They’re not all going to be gems and how I want them to go. … It’s a long year. Things have been going really well for me. It’s hard for me to get dejected just because they hit some balls back up the middle. … They had a simple approach. Hats off to them. Good for them.”
The Twins lost for the fourth time in five games, a stretch that started on Sunday with a loss to the Royals at Target Field, and got a shaky start for the second consecutive game. Kyle Gibson (7-4) started on Wednesday night against Boston and gave up six runs, seven hits and walked five while throwing 94 pitches in 4.1 innings in a 9-4 loss to the Red Sox.
Now, the good news. Despite the fact the Twins’ bats have cooled of late, they are averaging three runs per game in the past five, Minnesota still holds a nine-game lead on Cleveland in the American League Central. The Rangers beat Cleveland, 4-2, on Thursday afternoon.
Odorizzi entered Thursday’s start with an AL-leading 2.24 ERA and departed with the number at 2.58. Tampa Bay’s Charlie Morton now leads the league with a 2.31 ERA.
The Twins called up Sean Poppen from Triple-A Rochester on Wednesday after playing a 17-inning game the previous night and the righthander saw immediate action in the five-run loss to the Red Sox.
It wasn’t so much that Poppen pitched well as it was he gave the Twins’ bullpen some much-needed rest by throwing 70 pitches over four innings and giving up three runs and five hits with four walks and two strikeouts.
That earned Poppen a one-way ticket back to Rochester, so the Twins could get another fresh arm to the big-league club for Thursday’s game. This time the call went to righty Kohl Stewart and, like with Poppen, he got right into the game.
Stewart, though, actually was very good against a Royals lineup that isn’t nearly as dangerous as the Red Sox. Stewart threw 42 pitches over four innings, giving up two hits and striking out one.
“Instead of pushing Jake to his absolute limit on a day where he probably didn’t have his best stuff, we went to Kohl and Kohl came in and he did a tremendous job,” Baldelli said. “He’s definitely a different look than Jake is. He’s a very, very different type of pitcher. He settled in, he threw strikes, he got some swings and misses. He did a great job for us.”
A PAIN IN THE FOOT
Two nights after catching 17 innings, Mitch Garver was back behind the plate on Thursday but he didn’t complete the game. He was removed in the seventh inning because of soreness in his left heel.
“Mitch is actually doing OK,” Baldelli said after the game. “We took him out for precautionary reasons. He has some heel soreness and for now we’re going to treat him. We’re going to check him out tomorrow when he shows up, see how he’s doing, see how he comes out of this game.
“Could it have something to do with the 17 innings that he caught the other night? I wouldn’t be surprised if it was something related to that. Other than that, he seemed physically well and OK. It was just something that popped up and something that we didn’t really want to take a chance with. We just wanted to get him out of the game.”
When Garver came out, Willians Astudillo moved from third base to catcher and Miguel Sano, who was given the night off after a miserable three-game series against the Red Sox, went in at third base. Sano struck out in his only at-bat and has now struck out 12 times in his past 18 at-bats.