Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Odorizzi outduels Verlander as Twins hit 50th HR

@dohyoungpark
April 30, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS -- As usual, Justin Verlander was good. Jake Odorizzi was better. During an up-and-down start to the 2019 campaign, Odorizzi has maintained that he feels better than he did at any point last season. That showed Monday as he outdueled Verlander, one of the game’s elite pitchers, in the

MINNEAPOLIS -- As usual, Justin Verlander was good. Jake Odorizzi was better.

During an up-and-down start to the 2019 campaign, Odorizzi has maintained that he feels better than he did at any point last season. That showed Monday as he outdueled Verlander, one of the game’s elite pitchers, in the Twins’ 1-0 victory over the Astros at Target Field, with a third-inning homer by utility infielder Ehire Adrianza providing the game’s only offense.

“Stuff-wise, this has been the best I’ve consistently thrown regardless of results,” Odorizzi said. “Now, results are starting to match up with stuff. I’ve got to keep working. I’ve got to keep refining it and moving on. We’ve got a really special team here right now, and winning games like this means a lot moving forward, especially against them -- a playoff-caliber team like that.”

Odorizzi allowed singles to three of the first six batters he faced, but he retired 13 straight hitters from the second to the sixth innings against an Astros lineup that entered the game in the top three in the Majors in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

Odorizzi was efficient as he worked through the Houston lineup, too. He needed only 21 pitches the second time through the lineup, and he completed seven scoreless innings with a pitch count of 86.

“We have a chance to put one across with two outs [in the first inning] and he got out of that jam,” Verlander said. “And for the rest of the game, it was kind of like, you had that feeling. He was mowing guys down. As a pitcher, you know when that's happening on the other side and unfortunately, one run felt like 10 tonight the way he was pitching. When a guy's got it going, he's got it going. I was the first one to slip up."

When Odorizzi beat the Astros a week ago, he used his curveball as his primary offspeed offering to keep hitters off-balance. This time, facing them for a second straight start, he turned away from the curve and relied heavily on his slider and cutter (32 percent of his pitches) to complement a steady diet of fastballs up in the zone against an aggressive Houston lineup.

“We did so much work with [the curve] the previous outing that it was constantly, hopefully, in their heads,” Odorizzi said. “Sometimes, not throwing it can be the better thing because they’re so looking for it.”

The 29-year-old Odorizzi worked during the offseason to better differentiate his slider and cutter after he felt they had blended together into one pitch too much last season, and he felt they worked well on Monday -- cutters to lefties, sliders to righties.

“All the work paid off with separation between the two, and some days, it’s going to be like this,” Odorizzi said.

Odorizzi ran into trouble in the sixth, when he walked Alex Bregman -- the first walk by a Twins starter since April 24 -- and allowed a single to Michael Brantley with one out. But the right-hander used his fastball to strike out both Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel to escape the jam, yelling emphatically as he strode off the mound after freezing Gurriel with a 3-2 fastball down in the zone.

“He was pumped up,” Twins catcher Mitch Garver said. “Yeah, I love that. He was pumped up. He should be. Shut down one of the most potent offenses in the game. That's not easy to do.”

“There’s not too many times where I show emotion when I pitch,” Odorizzi said. “But certain instances, I feel like, it kind of takes you over. That was definitely one of them.”

Odorizzi retired five straight Astros as he finished his outing with a 1-2-3 seventh, having scattered four hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. It marked only the third time in 38 starts with the Twins that Odorizzi completed seven innings. Twins starters have pitched into at least the sixth in 15 of the last 16 games.

“That was a very nice and pretty unique special night for our guys,” Baldelli said.

A stat that mattered

50: number of homers this season for the Twins

The Twins have been drowning their opponents in long balls this season, so it wasn’t a surprise that a solo homer made the difference. What was a surprise, though, was the source of that homer: utility man Adrianza, who was the only Twins position player that was homerless in 2019, aside from the recently recalled Jake Cave.

"Yeah, I was talking with Martin [Perez] last night, and he told me, 'Hey, you're the only Twins player that hasn't hit a homer. You need one,'” Adrianza said. “Thank God, I've got one now."

After barely checking his swing on a 2-2 slider down in the zone, Adrianza was waiting for a fastball on the payoff pitch. He got one over the heart of the plate, up at the letters, and he didn't miss.

"He's got a pretty nasty slider,” Adrianza said. “When we come to the dugout, we talk to each other, like, 'We've got to lay down the slider so he can bring the fastball.' That was the plan today, and it worked."

It marked only the second time in Verlander's 426-start career that his team lost, 1-0, on a solo homer that he allowed. The other was May 13, 2016, when Adam Jones homered for the Orioles.

Adrianza’s homer was the Twins’ 50th of 2019, a franchise record through the first 26 games of a season. That leaves them on a 312-homer pace over a full season, which would shatter both the club (225) and Major League (267) records for homers in a season.

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.