The Minnesota Twins continued their success Tuesday against former Cy Young Award winners. On Wednesday, the Twins will see if they can fare just as well against a candidate for this year's version in the American League.
The Twins will look to lock up a series win when they host the Tampa Bay Rays in the middle game of a three-game set. Jake Odorizzi (10-3, 2.58 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound for Minnesota against his former club, which will counter with AL ERA leader Charlie Morton (8-1, 2.31).
The Twins helped deepen the struggles of reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell on Tuesday night, when they tagged him for seven runs over 3 1/3 innings in a 9-4 victory.
Snell became the fifth Cy Young winner to lose this season to the Twins, who lead the majors with 449 runs scored. Minnesota also beat Snell's 2018 National Leagie counterpart, the New York Mets' Jacob deGrom, as well as the Cleveland Indians' Corey Kluber (2014 and 2017 AL winner), the Philadelphia Phillies' Jake Arrieta (2015 NL winner with the Chicago Cubs) and the Houston Astros' Justin Verlander (2011 AL winner with the Detroit Tigers).
"It says a lot about what our guys do," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "Our guys are not worried about who we're facing. We go out there to compete and our guys go out there and have good at-bats, no matter who it is."
The Rays will need to muster up a similar attitude in order to emerge from their most difficult stretch of the season. Tampa Bay is 2-6 with two games remaining on a 10-game road trip and 10-14 this month, during which it has gone from 1 1/2 games ahead of the New York Yankees to six games back.
The slump has even ensnared Morton, who entered Tuesday ranked among the AL's top 10 in both strikeouts (113) and WHIP (1.02) in addition to leading the Junior Circuit in ERA. The Rays won 10 of Morton's first 14 starts, during which he went 8-0 with a 2.10 ERA. But Tampa Bay has lost each of his last two starts, a stretch in which Morton has gone 0-1 while allowing five runs over 12 1/3 innings.
Morton didn't factor into the decision in his most recent start last Thursday, when he gave up one run over 6 1/3 innings in the Rays' 5-4 loss to the Oakland Athletics.
"There's a balance of positivity and fight," Morton told reporters afterward. "I think sometimes you've got to get a little gritty. Sometimes you have to get a little angry because this game will really punch you in the mouth and it will humble you."
Odorizzi, who is tied for the AL lead in wins with Verlander and Chicago White Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito, took the loss in his most recent start last Thursday, when he allowed four runs over four innings as the Twins fell to the Kansas City Royals, 4-1.
Morton is 2-0 with a 4.58 ERA in three career starts against the Twins. Odorizzi is 1-0 with a 4.35 ERA in two starts against the Rays, for whom he played from 2013 through 2017.
--Field Level Media