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Duffey snares hot shot, rolls to 2nd win

Rookie stifles Orioles, fans career-high 8 in 3rd MLB start

BALTIMORE -- Twins right-hander Tyler Duffey has only made three starts in the Majors, but he made a big league play in Thursday night's 15-2 victory over the Orioles.

Facing Baltimore's Adam Jones to open the bottom of the fourth inning, the rookie caught a frozen rope smashed right back at him. Duffey, whose momentum after his delivery was carrying him to the first-base side of the mound, quickly flipped his shoulders and caught the liner a foot or two away from his face.

The ball left Jones' bat at 101 mph, according to Statcast™. Like many Major League pitchers, Duffey treated it as any other play, tossing the ball nonchalantly to first baseman Joe Mauer to get the ball around the horn.

Video: [email protected]: Duffey snags Jones' line-drive comebacker

"Catch the ball," Duffey said of his mindset on the comebacker. "It's one of those, you throw it and as soon as it leaves your hand you know it's coming right back at you. I gloved it, fortunately. It was coming right at my head. I was really fortunate there. It's just incentive not to throw it over the middle of the plate like that."

The play was just one highlight on an impressive night as the rookie becomes more acclimated to the Major Leagues. His first start lasted just two innings against Toronto as he gave up six runs. The next was a six-inning performance where the young right-hander gave up just one hit against the White Sox for his first career win.

On Thursday, he rolled through 7 2/3 innings while striking out a career-high eight. Duffey also had to wait through a two-hour, 31-minute rain delay, which seemed to have no effect on the 24-year-old. He passed the eye test and impressed his manager, as the Twins continue their push for a American League Wild Card spot. With the win, Minnesota moved to three games back of the Angels for the second AL Wild Card.

"Duffey was solid," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "They had a lot of trouble with that breaking ball. He kept it down. He threw it for a strike earlier. Got 'em chasing a little bit. It started flattening a little bit toward the end after some of the long innings he was on the sidelines there. But yeah, just hit his spots with his fastball. And the curveball was really good."

Duffey was aided by 5-0 lead in the second inning, but his curveball seemed almost unhittable, as the Orioles continually swung through the off-speed pitch. He was tough on himself after the game, saying he needed to make better pitches if he wanted to work deep into games, but Thursday was certainly a step in the right direction.

"He did exactly what we thought he was going to do, which is a real tribute to him and the quality of his curveball," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "We knew he was going to throw a lot of them. He threw really late and works underneath the ball a lot. That type of curveball is always tough against left-handed batters if he continuously throws it in the right spot, which he did."

Connor Smolensky is an associate reporter for
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