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Odorizzi racks up 11 K's as Twins fall to Tribe

@dohyoungpark
March 30, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins have been slow to catch up to the strikeout-dominated game of recent years, but after Minnesota set a franchise record in strikeouts last season, Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi have the Twins off to a historic start in 2019. After Berrios struck out 10 Cleveland hitters

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins have been slow to catch up to the strikeout-dominated game of recent years, but after Minnesota set a franchise record in strikeouts last season, Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi have the Twins off to a historic start in 2019.

After Berrios struck out 10 Cleveland hitters in his Opening Day start Thursday, Odorizzi tied a career-high with 11 strikeouts Saturday as the Twins became only the second team since 1893 (when the mound moved to its current distance) to have a pitcher record 10 or more strikeouts in each of the first two games of the season, as confirmed by the Elias Sports Bureau.

Despite the historic start from Odorizzi, the Twins’ bats only mustered one hit and one run off Indians starter Trevor Bauer and couldn’t complete a ninth-inning rally on a frigid Minneapolis afternoon as they fell to Cleveland, 2-1, on Saturday at Target Field.

“Jose set the tone really great two days ago,” Odorizzi said. “I just wanted to go out and follow his lead. I watched his game and saw what he was doing well and worked well for him, and just modified it to work well for me and the things I do well. It’s important for us to have good pitching throughout this year, and we’re off to a really good start.

“Starting pitching is one of those things that turns into a contagious sort of thing. You see a lineup get hot, you can see starting pitchers get hot and it just keeps going.”

The only other teammates to accomplish the strikeout feat were Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, for the 2001 D-backs. Johnson struck out 10 Dodgers on April 3, 2001, before Schilling recorded 12 strikeouts the next day.

Odorizzi allowed only one hit -- a Hanley Ramirez solo homer on a 3-0 pitch -- as he struck out 11 and walked two in six innings.

He showed particular dominance with his four-seam fastball Saturday, as he struck out nine Cleveland hitters with the pitch, setting a new record among Twins pitchers in the pitch-tracking era (since 2008). He also generated 12 whiffs with the pitch, according to Statcast, one shy of his career-best.

“I guess it's something I don't really need to worry about if I can continue to get ahead with the fastball and get swings and misses with it,” Odorizzi said. “I think it opens up everything else as an offspeed pitch. Just go with what's working on that particular day, and today it was the fastball.”

Odorizzi worked hard this offseason at the Florida Baseball Ranch to tweak his mechanics and hoped to be more aggressive after walking a career-high 70 hitters last season, and he was encouraged by the results he got Saturday. He felt that he commanded his fastball well to all parts of the zone and kept his location unpredictable to the Indians’ hitters.

He started feeling particularly good about his fastball in the first and second innings after drawing some “ugly swings” as he struck out the side to begin the game. In the end, he felt that his execution and pitches were more effective than they were in his Opening Day start last season, when he pitched six shutout innings.

“Enjoy it now, get ready for Philly. But it was a good start to just a culmination of a lot of stuff that I did this winter,” Odorizzi said. “To see a positive result for the first game, that means something. That’s what I’m taking away from this.”

Baldelli not concerned about lack of offense

The reinforced Twins offense has only mustered three runs and six hits in their first two games, but given that Minnesota’s lineup has faced two of the American League’s best starters in Corey Kluber and Bauer, manager Rocco Baldelli isn’t yet worrying about his offense’s lack of results.

“When you're facing really good pitching like we are now, I think [you see] these little runs of the bats, just a couple of hits here and there,” Baldelli said. “I think once we get into a groove and get into some better weather and get out there and get in a routine, I think it'll be OK.”

Kluber took a no-hitter into the sixth inning Thursday, while Bauer only allowed one baserunner -- on a Jorge Polanco triple -- through the first six frames Saturday. The Twins’ only sustained rally against Bauer came in the seventh, but that was aided by a walk, a hit by pitch and an error.

The Twins did show fight at the end of the game, when Byron Buxton led off the ninth with a wind-aided double on a popup to shallow right-center, before Nelson Cruz was intentionally walked and Eddie Rosario also took a free pass with two outs. But Brad Hand was able to induce a shallow flyout by C.J. Cron to quell the Twins’ rally.

“I thought we had a couple of opportunities like that,” Baldelli said. “We had a nice little rally going there. At some point, we have the kind of hitters that I have lot of confidence that our guys are going to go out there and hit some balls hard and get the job done.”

A stat that mattered

34 degrees: The game-time temperature Saturday, matching the third-coldest first pitch recorded at Target Field.

“I know it was a little bit cold, balls were a little bit slick, but I gotta go out there and make pitches,” said Blake Parker, who threw two consecutive wild pitches to move the game-winning run to third in the ninth inning. “I mean, I don't know [if the cold was a factor]. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't, but I’ve got to make better pitches.”

A quote that mattered

“I don't mind to get hit. Sometimes I like to get hit. But when you see it constantly in that situation, in that spot, you have to let him know that it's not OK. … That’s my job to tell him." -- Cruz, on his heated words for Bauer after getting hit by a pitch in the seventh inning. Cruz had also been brushed back by a pitch high and inside off his bat in the fourth inning.

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