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Wetmore’s 5 thoughts: Jake Odorizzi succeeds up, Fernando Rodney’s on a roll

MINNEAPOLIS – On the whole the Twins probably aren’t content with the way things went during a weekend series against the Milwaukee Brewers. Minnesota lost 2 of 3 games to the Brew Crew and learned that Joe Mauer would require a stint on the disabled list with a strained neck and “concussion-like symptoms.”

But Jake Odorizzi pitched well Sunday and Logan Morrison added an important knock that served as a pick-me-up for Twins fans, and both players contributed to the Twins’ 3-1 win to salvage the final game of the alleged Border Battle series.

1. Logan Morrison tattooed the winning hit in the 8th inning.

Morrison, filling in for the injured Joe Mauer at first base, walked up to the plate with the bases loaded and one out in the 8th inning. He smoked a pitch high off the wall in right field, and the result was a 2-RBI single on a liner that Morrison – and his manager – said might have left 29 other parks.

That was the decisive hit in a 3-1 Twins win, and it’s just the latest in a good stretch of hitting for the new Twins’ first baseman. He entered Sunday hitting  .294/.400/.559 in his past 20 games.

Mauer and Molitor traded texts on Saturday, and after a couple days at home the expectation is that Mauer will be back at the park Monday to get a feel for where he’s at physically. It’s not yet clear, though, how soon Mauer will be back from his neck strain and concussion-like symptoms. Without their most consistent bat in the lineup the Twins will be counting on more of the same patience and power that Morrison has featured for the past few weeks.

2. Jake Odorizzi was great Sunday.

He pitched 5 2/3 really good innings against the Brewers, during which he racked up 10 strikeouts. That’s the first time in his brief Twins career that he’s hit double-digit strikeouts, and the first since his first start in 2016 with the Rays.

The pitch that really made a difference for him was the fastball up in the zone – and out of the zone. Odorizzi is well-known for his use of high fastballs to “jump over” a hitter’s bat. That ability was on full display Sunday. By my count 8 of his 10 punchouts came on the fastball, one on a splitter and one a sort of straight cutter up above the zone.

I counted 16 swinging strikes (swing and a miss), out of the 24 hitters he faced Sunday. By percentage, that’s almost 15% of Odorizzi’s 108 pitches thrown, and that’s a good mark.

3. On the other hand…

The one negative checkmark on his timecard was a no-doubter home run by Jesús Aguilar.

That guy had a pretty good series for the Brewers.

With two outs and nobody on base in the 6th inning, Odorizzi tried to go back to the old trick of daring a hitters to go get a fastball high and out of the strike zone. Aguilar took that dare, swinging at a high fastball and gifting it to a fan sitting in the second deck in left field.

Overall I’d say that the fastball was a good pitch for Odorizzi against the Brewers. It’s just that the one pitch to Aguilar ended up a long way from home plate and tied the score at 1-1.

(By the way, it wasn’t just Odorizzi who struggled to get that guy out; in the 3-game series in Minnesota, Aguilar was 6-for-13 with 4 home runs, 6 RBIs, 5 runs scored and a walk for good measure.)

We already mentioned Odorizzi’s roughly 15% swing-and-miss rate Sunday. By contrast, if you’re keeping score at home, about 0.9% of Odorizzi’s pitches were hit for home runs to the second deck in left field.

That’s the tradeoff with fastballs up.

4. Fernando Rodney has rewarded Paul Molitor’s confidence with a scoreless streak.

Rodney looked dominant Sunday against the Brewers, with three strikeouts in a clean 9th inning to slam the door on Milwaukee’s nose.

Rodney is animated in his faux bow-and-arrow post-game celebration on the mound. It was a stark contrast to hear him speak roughly 10 or 15 minutes after the last out was recorded.

“That’s part of the season. It’s going to be better, one day it’s going to be tough,” Rodney said quietly, standing at his double-wide locker inside the winning clubhouse. “But the only way I’m doing my job is when I keep my head up. I know it’s good today, maybe it will be bad tomorrow. So I just keep fighting and see what happens.”

What happened Sunday was a 1-2-3 inning in which Rodney struck out the side to preserve a needed Twins win.

Once again we’re awarding the Save Assist to Addison Reed, whose strong 8th inning took care of Milwaukee’s 3-4-5 hitters. That freed up Rodney to bully the bottom of the Brewers’ order, a task he accepted without issue.

It’s been a lot more good than bad lately. Rodney is running stretch of 9 scoreless outings right now. He hasn’t given up a run since Miguel Sano blew a save for him in New York against the Yankees.

“It’s one pitch, game over. But I believe in myself … I trust everything I have,” Rodney said.

He’s got a great changeup, and he can dial his fastball up into the mid-90’s when the game is on the line. Molitor, for his part, stuck with the closer even after the Twins had some tough losses in April.

“I don’t think that some of the games that we let slip away were totally attributable to the fact that he wasn’t throwing well,” Molitor said Sunday. “But as of late he’s been overmatching a lot of guys, as he did today, [with a] combination of the fastball and changeup.”

5. Byron Buxton got on base and then his speed earned Max Kepler an RBI hit.

Buxton sent a single to the outfield when he stayed on a slider in his second plate appearance. Then as Brian Dozier swung at strike three, Buxton was busy stealing second base. The Brewers hurried, as any team is wont to do when Buxton is out there doing his thing on the base paths. The throw down to second base was no good and ended up in the outfield, which in turn allowed Buxton to scamper to third base.

The next hitter, Max Kepler, singled through a drawn-in infield and Buxton crossed the plate to take a 1-0 lead.

I’m not 100% sure if Kepler’s ball is a hit if the infield is playing standard depth. But I am 100% sure that Milwaukee would not have played their prevent defense in that moment without a runner on third base.

We’ve seen before that over the course of a season Buxton can earn some teammates an RBI by shallow fly balls into RBI sacrifice flies. On Sunday, it’s not stretch to say that he earned Kepler the RBI hit just by getting over to third base.

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