MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Jake Odorizzi was at 93 pitches, had struck out the last four batters he faced and retired eight in a row when Minnesota Twins manager Rocco Baldelli surprisingly emerged from the dugout to pull his starter one out into the sixth inning.
The pitcher, along with Max Kepler where dealing with an illness. It was hard to tell as Odorizzi dazzled again and Kepler hit a three-run homer an estimated 429 feet into the wall of juniper bushes in center field to help the Twins win 7-0 over the Chicago White Sox on Sunday.
“Sometimes you see some of the best performers play at their best when they’re sick,” Kepler said. “Michael Jordan, when he was sick in that playoff game. I don’t know what it is. Maybe, just calmer. I don’t know.”
Eddie Rosario hit his 16th home run — which is second in the American League to Houston’s George Springer — for three runs to cap a four-run third inning against Chicago starter Dylan Covey. Kepler’s 12th homer was No. 104 for the Twins, which leads the majors. They also own the top home run differential at plus-43.
Minnesota has won 11 of its past 12 games and swept a series for the seventh time this season. The Twins swept eight series all of last season.
Odorizzi (7-2) allowed one hit in 5 1/3 scoreless innings to win his seventh straight decision, and he finished without allowing a run for the fifth time in his past six starts. He combined with four relievers for Minnesota’s sixth shutout of the season.
“It just kind of caught up with me in about the fourth inning on, getting the breathing going and my throat has a little mucus, that sort of thing,” Odorizzi said. “I was having trouble just getting a deep breath and then felt like I was choking afterwards because of all the drainage going on. It’s been like this way for a few days, so I think I’m on the uphill part of it.”
The Twins’ surge to the best record in the majors has been powered by the best offense in baseball, but Odorizzi and the team’s starters have done their part. Minnesota entered the day with a 3.57 ERA from its starters, the third-best mark in the majors.
“I think their pitching staff is doing a fine job,” Chicago manager Rick Renteria said. “Some of the arms they’re throwing in the back of the pen right now and in the middle of games, they’ve got some pretty good arms. They’re kind of running hot, but it’s a talented group.”
Odorizzi has given up three runs in his past 35 2/3 innings for a 0.76 ERA and he’s struck out 38 batters over that span. In six starts at home this season, the right-hander has given up five runs in 36 1/3 innings.
He struck out nine batters on Saturday, while the White Sox tied a season high with 16 strikeouts. They were outscored 26-5 in the three-game series.