MINNEAPOLIS -- It was a sign of improvement from right-hander Jake Odorizzi, as he bounced back from early scuffles to get through 5 2/3 strong innings against the contending Pirates.
Jorge Polanco and Jake Cave helped spark a three-run fourth, while Miguel Sano hit a two-run homer in the eighth to back Odorizzi in a 5-2 win over Pittsburgh on Tuesday. It helped the Twins improve to 15-4 over their last 19 games at Target Field. All four players have something to prove down the stretch, as Odorizzi has been inconsistent but remains under contract through next season, Polanco has fared well since his 80-game suspension, Cave has filled in capably for Byron Buxton and Sano is starting to heat up after his six-week stint in the Minors.
"I thought Odo was sharp, just a little more crispness to his pitches, didn't seem to make those couple big mistakes that have kind of been haunting him," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "So a lot of positives."
Odorizzi, who didn't last more than five innings in any of his last three starts, gave up two runs on four hits and two walks with nine strikeouts. Both runs came in the second with Francisco Cervelli bringing home the game's first run on a double before Colin Moran plated a run on an RBI groundout. Odorizzi, though, escaped further trouble and settled down from there.
"I thought controlling my split tonight was the difference-maker, between average outings and above-average outings," Odorizzi said. "I executed a lot of pitches down in the zone tonight, more so than I have in the past, and I think that's what help set up my split today. I'm happy with how today went overall, and stuff wise, I think that was one of my top two outings, just the way I felt with all my pitches."
He went on to retire 11 straight batters before giving up a pair of two-out singles in the sixth. Reliever Tyler Duffey came in and struck out Cervelli on a 3-2 curveball to end the inning.
"I've had success with my hard-breaking ball lately," Duffey said. "Hopefully, I can keep those same results."
Offensively, the Twins didn't get a hit off right-hander Jameson Taillon until Joe Mauer singled to open the bottom of the fourth. It started a rally with Eddie Rosario doubling to set up a two-run single from Polanco to tie the game. Four batters later, Cave came up huge with a go-ahead RBI single into center that proved to be the game-winner.
"It helps when Joe's your 10th hitter," Molitor said. "He got us going, Rosie followed it up and Polanco got a hit and we were able to erase the deficit. It was tight from there."
The Pirates threatened in the eighth, loading the bases with two outs, but Matt Magill got Cervelli to fly out to center to get out of the jam.
The Twins got two big insurance runs in the bottom of the inning with Polanco leading off with a bloop double before Sano connected on a two-run blast off reliever Richard Rodriguez. It was Sano's ninth home run of the year and his second since coming back on July 28. But it was also his first since cutting his hair for the first time in three years on Tuesday, which his teammates noted after the game with Kyle Gibson signing a ball for him.
"Gibson did it," Sano said. "He wrote, 'New hair, new player, power comes back.'"
Odorizzi has yet to record an out in the seventh inning in 25 starts with the Twins this year. It's a Major League record for consecutive starts without pitching more than six innings in a single season since 1908.
HE SAID IT
"They're key parts of this team, obviously this year but for years to come. You can build a team around a good left side of the infield, and we have two really good ones. And you saw Sano's power -- it's pretty unmatched. His arm at third is pretty unmatched as well. So put that together in one player, it's pretty special. So he's going to be a big part of this team's success." -- Odorizzi, on Sano and Polanco
Video: [email protected]: Polanco plates 2 with a single to right
Right-hander Jose Berrios will make the start for the Twins in the finale against the Pirates on Wednesday at 12:10 p.m. CT. Berrios (11-8, 3.66 ERA) struggled against the Indians his last time out, giving up four runs over four innings. Right-hander Chris Archer (4-5, 4.36 ERA) will start for the Pirates in his third outing since being acquired from the Rays.