Irvin's career comes 'full circle' in start vs. hometown Twins

May 22nd, 2024

WASHINGTON -- Right-hander began receiving excited messages and calls from his family and friends about a month and a half ago as the Nationals’ rotation plans took shape.

The 27-year-old Bloomington, Minn., native was on track to start on May 22 in the series finale against the Twins.

His hometown team.

“We’re going to have a rainout [before then],” Irvin initially predicted. “If I’m pitching the last game of that series, that means I’m not going to pitch.”

Irvin’s forecast was proven otherwise. On a sunny, 85-degree Wednesday afternoon, he made his first career appearance against the Twins.

“It’s super special,” said Irvin, who grew up a 10-mile ride from Target Field. “It's kind of one of those moments where everything's come full circle. Grew up being a Twins fan and the dream was to put on a Twins jersey, and now to be pitching against them is pretty surreal. I’m really excited for it.”

Irvin delivered 6 1/3 innings, his second-longest outing of the season, in the Nats’ 3-2 loss to the Twins at Nationals Park. He allowed five hits, no walks and two runs on solo homers to Max Kepler and Carlos Correa across 84 pitches (59 strikes). Irvin matched his season high with six strikeouts and dropped his ERA over his past five starts to 3.07.

“Jake pitched really well, he really did,” said manager Dave Martinez. “He kept us in the game.”

Before Irvin pitched in front of his family as a Major Leaguer, he attended Twins games with them on a flex season package from 2005-13, with seats down the left-field line just past third base. Irvin attended the first game played at Target Field, several Opening Days and playoff games.

Irvin’s favorite player was two-time All-Star Michael Cuddyer. He appreciated Cuddyer’s humility and the contributions he made without always being the star player. Last season, Irvin was able to share his admiration when Triple-A Rochester manager Matthew LeCroy invited Cuddyer to speak to the Red Wings about his mentality and longevity in the game.

“I told him that I really appreciated what he did for the city and his passion for the game,” Irvin said. “He won a batting title in the last three years of his career. He talked to us about how he had gone through a really good long career, and at the back end of it where he might not have been his most talented, he found a way to mentally flip the switch a little bit. It was cool.”

Irvin’s path to becoming a big league pitcher was influenced by attending Twins games, too. He was present when Johan Santana posted a team-record 17 strikeouts on Aug. 19, 2007, at the Metrodome. The future 2018 fourth-round Draft pick took notice of the left-hander’s prowess on the mound.

“I remember Johan Santana was the first time I had ever really appreciated pitching,” Irvin said. “I had always liked Cuddyer, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, guys like that. But then watching Santana pitch, it was like, ‘All right, this side of the game’s cool, too.’”

From Twins fan to Thomas Jefferson High School star to University of Oklahoma standout to Nationals starting pitcher, Irvin’s past dreams meshed with his present accomplishments on Wednesday afternoon.

“The fact that it lined up is pretty surreal, pretty crazy,” he said. “But I'm happy that I'm throwing the last game in the series. So I get to enjoy the first two games, enjoy it as a Washington National, win some games and then I can take the emotions out of it on the third day and just go back to any old start.”