KANSAS CITY -- Maybe the law of averages simply caught up with Jake Odorizzi.
What goes up must eventually come down, and Odorizzi’s personal 10-game win streak came to an end in the Twins’ 4-1 loss to the Royals in the opener of a four-game series on Thursday night at Kauffman Stadium. Odorizzi started the night with a 2.24 ERA, which was tied for third in the Major Leagues. But the Royals got to the right-hander for three runs in the opening inning while forcing Odorizzi to throw 34 pitches.
Odorizzi had hoped for some length to help an overworked Minnesota bullpen, but he lasted just four innings, allowing eight hits and four runs. Odorizzi had been tied for the third-longest winning streak in Twins history.
“They had a better day than I did,” Odorizzi said. “It’s going to happen. They aren’t all going to be gems and how I want them to go.”
Meanwhile, Royals starter Glenn Sparkman held down an offense which has flourished all season as the Twins have taken a commanding lead in the American League Central race. Jorge Polanco hit a solo homer in the first, giving him a 33-game streak of reaching base, which leads the Majors. But Sparkman rolled through the next six innings unscathed.
Odorizzi lost for the first time since April 10 against the Mets at Citi Field. It started in ominous fashion as leadoff hitter Whit Merrifield lined a double to left-center. Nicky Lopez singled and Alex Gordon lined a two-run double to right-center. Just like that, the Royals had all the offense they would need before Odorizzi had recorded an out.
“They were aggressive,” Odorizzi said. “They put the ball in play. I thought it was a simple approach. They got on top of fastballs and did what they needed to do.”
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli didn’t want to push Odorizzi after the pitcher had thrown 80 pitches through four innings and saw his team in a three-run hole.
“I think he had trouble getting comfortable,” Baldelli said. “He didn’t find what he was looking for to really settle in. When he couldn’t go to [the fastball] to get swings and misses, it became an issue.”
Right-hander Kohl Stewart, who was recalled from Triple-A Rochester earlier in the day, came on to deliver four innings of scoreless relief. But with the Twins’ offense stuck in neutral, Kansas City’s early lead was never seriously threatened.
“They beat me today,” Odorizzi said. “We’ll see each other again and go for different results.”
Twins catcher Mitch Garver left the game in the bottom of the seventh inning with left heel soreness. He was laboring noticeably in the fourth while running out a ground ball, but Baldelli said his exit was for precautionary reasons.
“Mitch is doing OK,” Baldelli said. “For now, we’re going to treat him. Could it have something to do with the 17 innings that he caught the other night? I wouldn’t be surprised if it was something related to that.”