MINNEAPOLIS — Jake Odorizzi could sense the panic. Not from the Twins locker room, and certainly not from manager Rocco Baldelli, but from the team’s fan base that had seen the club drop four in a row in ugly fashion in the past week at Target Field.
So after the veteran pitched 5.2 innings of scoreless baseball against Cleveland on Saturday night in a 4-1 victory at Target Field, Odorizzi acknowledged the doom that many have felt about a Twins team that led Cleveland by 11.5 games in early June but saw the AL Central tied on Friday after the Indians beat Minnesota.
“It’s natural. 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,” said Odorizzi, who is in his second season with the Twins. “It’s not our control. We’re not fans. We’ve got to go out and do our jobs, but it’s easy to find panic. But there’s no panic in here. We know what type of team we are, 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. I just wanted to go out, do my part to stop the bleeding and move forward, let Jose (Berrios) do his thing tomorrow.”
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Odorizzi, who gave up six hits, four walks and stranded 10 runners on Saturday, pitched well enough that the Twins again have a one-game lead on Cleveland with the finale of this four-game series on Sunday afternoon. It will feature Berrios, who gave up nine runs in his last outing Tuesday against Atlanta, against Cleveland righthander Aaron Civale.
Odorizzi said he prides himself on being a guy who can stop the type of losing streak the Twins were on. What was especially disturbing was how poor the starting pitching had been in the four games — Berrios, Martin Perez, Kyle Gibson and Devin Smeltzer posted an 11.51 ERA and gave up 31 hits and 15 walks in 20.1 innings.
“Somebody’s got to apply the tourniquet at some point, might as well be me,” Odorizzi said. “I kind of pride myself on that. The tourniquet thing is a good analogy, not just for in here where we’re pretty confident, but for the city in general that’s in panic mode right now: Everything is going to be fine. That’s how we take it in here. There’s a lot of talk of, the lead is what it is, we lost it. We also started the year off, we were even with Cleveland and we got to a point where we were up. It’s the same as Opening Day all over again. We got there one time, might as well continue to do it again.”
Odorizzi was given a standing ovation from many in the crowd of 35,268 when he departed Saturday but admitted that was a bit odd considering he didn’t pitch deeper into the game.
“They were trying to let out some of the frustrations of what we’ve been going through,” he said. “I was appreciative of it. But it still was the sixth inning. If it was the seventh, I maybe would have given a little more enthusiasm to it. But it was appreciated. Hopefully that continues for the next month-and-a-half. I think we all enjoy the cheering and to be honest, we could use more of it in certain situations. To each their own. If we do things well and continue to play well, that should continue to happen.”
While Odorizzi understands why Minnesota sports fans are anxious these days, he also makes it clear he and his teammates have nothing to do with the past.
“People live and die by what their local sports are and they’re diehards,” he said. “I think that’s what the appreciation is. It’s also easy to go to on the negative side than be the optimistic side and have people tell you you’re full of it. As a player, playing in a city that has a history of up and down, to let people know that’s not how we view things. We’re not Minnesota people that have gone through those. We’re here to win and we’re a pretty darn good team so far this year. Just hang in there. There’s still a lot of games left.”