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Odorizzi returns to form and notches first win

Twins righty fans 6, weathers early storm against Jays
@dohyoungpark
April 17, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS -- Two starts ago, Jake Odorizzi only lasted two outs because he couldn’t get a feel for any of his pitches in a Philadelphia rainstorm. Odorizzi faced another tough draw on Wednesday night, when a rainy afternoon delayed the start of the game by 54 minutes and a blustery

MINNEAPOLIS -- Two starts ago, Jake Odorizzi only lasted two outs because he couldn’t get a feel for any of his pitches in a Philadelphia rainstorm.

Odorizzi faced another tough draw on Wednesday night, when a rainy afternoon delayed the start of the game by 54 minutes and a blustery drizzle continued through the first several innings. But he fought through the elements to get back on track with six strikeouts in a one-run outing against the Blue Jays in the Twins’ 4-1 victory at Target Field.

“I'm the bad weather guy this year,” Odorizzi said. “It's typically one guy every season that's the crappy weather guy. But today was pretty good. I guess I could say I've learned from previous mistakes. It's just go out there, mind over matter sort of a thing.”

Odorizzi called his difficult outing in Philly a “teaching point” that formed the adjustments he used to handle the light rain at first pitch on Wednesday. Though he warmed up three different times leading up to the game, Odorizzi said that having the added transparency of being in his home ballpark helped him deal with the delay.

The 29-year-old right-hander allowed an early run on Justin Smoak’s first-inning RBI single and Odorizzi didn’t throw a 1-2-3 inning in his 5 2/3 frames. But he managed the baserunners well in his 101-pitch outing, not allowing any Blue Jays to advance beyond first base in the final five innings, aided by three timely groundouts and a caught stealing.

“I got some ground balls in situations where if it's not raining, it's probably a double play,” Odorizzi said. “That's a really important thing for me, since I'm not typically a ground-ball guy. If I can get the ball on the ground and get weak contact, that's a big emphasis moving forward."

Wednesday’s outing was a good way for Odorizzi to shake off the frustration of his struggles in Philadelphia and his previous start in New York, especially because he feels that he has been more consistent with his pitching throughout this season than at any point last year, when he posted a career-worst 4.49 ERA in 32 starts.

And outside of his struggles with command in those previous outings, the numbers largely back up that sentiment, as he has held opponents to a .172 average (10-for-58) this season, including only one double and one home run.

Odorizzi eventually gave way to 3 1/3 shutout innings from the bullpen, featuring a pair of similarly significant bounce-back outings from Adalberto Mejía and Blake Parker.

Mejia had allowed four runs in the eighth inning to hand the Blue Jays a come-from-behind victory in Monday night’s series opener, while Parker hadn’t appeared since he left the bases loaded in the ninth inning of his previous save opportunity on Sunday.

Because this homestand kicks off a stretch of 26 games in 27 days that will undeniably test the depth of the Twins’ bullpen, manager Rocco Baldelli wanted to give the 25-year-old Mejia the opportunity to get back on track. He responded by getting four outs on only 11 pitches.

“Any young pitcher in particular, it’s nice to get right back out there,” Baldelli said. “I think any time where it makes sense and the conditions kind of make sense for that to happen, I think it’s a good idea to get him out there, get him throwing, and he did the job.”

Kepler, Polanco set stage for offense

The top of the Twins’ lineup gave Odorizzi all the support he needed against Toronto right-hander Trent Thornton in a 37-pitch first inning, when Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco continued their productive starts to the season by scoring a pair of runs on Nelson Cruz’s RBI single and a double play.

Polanco reached base multiple times for the fourth straight game, going 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored, to raise his season batting line to .429/.484/.768. Kepler had his career-long 10-game hitting streak snapped on Tuesday, but he extended his on-base streak to 12 games with a leadoff double.

This season, Baldelli installed Kepler in the leadoff spot for the first time in his career and the skipper wanted to keep Polanco near the top of the lineup due to the quality of their at-bats. So far, the results have been promising.

“It’s what we know they’re capable of,” Baldelli said. “It’s important to get that going, and then the rest of the lineup can follow and take advantage of their strengths. But it’s nice when your first two guys go up there and have competitive at-bats throughout the game, every game. It’s nice.”

Cruz was the main beneficiary of their continued success, as he drove in Kepler with his first-inning single and Polanco with a third-inning double to collect his first two RBIs since April 2.

“It doesn’t mean I’m going to get the RBI every time, but it definitely gives you more chances to do it,” Cruz said.

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