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Twins' 6th straight win a shutout led by Odorizzi

@dohyoungpark
May 26, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS -- Jake Odorizzi can’t be stopped right now. Except maybe by a cold. Though he was having trouble taking deep breaths on the mound toward the later innings as he dealt with severe congestion, Odorizzi tossed 5 1/3 brilliant innings on Sunday, allowing only one hit for the fourth

MINNEAPOLIS -- Jake Odorizzi can’t be stopped right now. Except maybe by a cold.

Though he was having trouble taking deep breaths on the mound toward the later innings as he dealt with severe congestion, Odorizzi tossed 5 1/3 brilliant innings on Sunday, allowing only one hit for the fourth time this season while striking out nine White Sox batters, two shy of his season high.

A pair of three-run blasts from Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler helped power Minnesota to another workmanlike 7-0 victory, sealing a series sweep, the Twins’ sixth straight win and their 11th triumph in their last 12 games.

“[Odorizzi] threw the ball exceptionally well,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Threw the ball well but fought through his start, because he’s obviously not feeling well. We knew that as he was going through it. You guys just talked to him. He doesn’t sound the best, but he performed nicely.”

Box score

With the win, the Twins are 20 games above .500 and have a 10-game lead over the second-place Indians in the American League Central -- both for the first time since September 2010.

Odorizzi has not yielded a run in five of his last six starts, a span in which he has allowed three earned runs in 35 2/3 innings (an 0.76 ERA) to lower his season ERA to an American League-leading 2.16. He has recorded 38 strikeouts in that span while allowing only 20 hits and 10 walks.

On Sunday, he generated a season-high 19 swinging strikes, including 15 with his fastball. He threw four clean innings and only allowed runners to reach base in the third inning, when he walked Yolmer Sanchez to start the frame and yielded a solid single to Charlie Tilson but struck out Yoan Moncada to end the threat.

“I felt like I had good carry to it today,” Odorizzi said. “I was able to execute it, and they were swinging and mis-hitting it, so I just wanted to keep going with what was working best. We mixed in occasional breaking stuff today, but the fastball was the most important pitch of the day."

He punched out the last four batters he faced before he was removed after throwing 93 pitches.

“Physically, he was having a tough day, so I think getting him out of there on a high note, even at a point where he was still throwing the ball pretty well, made some sense just to get the rest of our guys in there and ready to go,” Baldelli said.

And though the Twins’ offense has deservedly gotten much attention throughout this winning stretch, the starting rotation as a whole has been just as big a part of the team’s success in May. Twins starters entered Sunday with a 2.90 ERA this month -- the second-best mark in the AL -- while combining to throw an MLB-leading 145 2/3 innings.

"That takes so much pressure off us,” reliever Blake Parker said. “It takes so much pressure off the hitters, too. Our hitters obviously are very comfortable, but I think our starting pitchers have done a good job of allowing them to be comfortable and be themselves and not have to press for that hit because we're giving up a bunch of runs or whatever. They've been able to settle in and do what they do."

Here’s how the Twins’ rotation has set up the club’s 19-6 record in May:

Jose Berrios: 5 starts, 31.0 IP, 3.48 ERA, 23 K, 3 BB
Kyle Gibson: 5 starts, 29.2 IP, 3.34 ERA, 36 K, 6 BB
Jake Odorizzi: 5 starts, 28.2 IP, 0.94 ERA, 31 K, 9 BB
Michael Pineda: 4 starts, 24.0 IP, 4.50 ERA, 22 K, 5 BB
Martin Perez: 5 starts, 31.2 IP, 1.71 ERA, 33 K, 14 BB

Through this recent stretch of 11 wins in 12 games, Twins starters have combined to allow 25 earned runs in 70 1/3 innings (a 3.20 ERA), with only two games in which the starting pitcher allowed more than three earned runs. One of those games was the Twin’s 7-4 loss in Seattle; the other came when Berrios was already pitching with a 15-0 lead.

“With this type of offense, the starting pitching is probably going to be what really keeps us from getting into a long losing streak, because it's not going to be the offense, I think,” Gibson said on Saturday. “Rarely are we going to have three or four games in a row where we only score one or two runs.

“So it's going to be up to the starting pitching to be consistent like that, and understand that five innings and three runs, or six innings and three runs, is pretty good when your offense is like this.”

A stat that mattered:

54: Team homers in May

The three-run bombs from Rosario and Kepler brought the Twins’ May total to 54, one shy of the franchise record for most in a calendar month in franchise history. The 1964 Twins -- led by Harmon Killebrew, Bob Allison and Tony Oliva -- hit 55 homers in May. The 2019 Twins still have four games remaining this month.

Talk of the town

The Twins announced a paid attendance of 39,913 on Sunday afternoon, their second consecutive sellout and their highest attendance since the 2016 home opener, when they drew 40,638 fans. The last time they sold out back-to-back games had been June 20-21, 2015, when they filled the house for consecutive contests against the Cubs.

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