The National League style was a firm fit for Jake Odorizzi on Tuesday afternoon at Busch Stadium.
Odorizzi, 28, a Highland High School graduate, worked five strong innings and laid down two sacrifice bunts, one that led to a key insurance run, in the Minnesota Twins' 7-1 drubbing of the St. Louis Cardinals.
"The National League game's always a little different when you're the American League team," Odorizzi said after improving to 3-2 with a 3.83 ERA for his new team. "We all did a good job today — offense, defense, bullpen. It was a good, all-around game."
Odorizzi's bunt in the fourth came after the Twins had taken a 2-1 lead on Mitch Garver's RBI single. His bunt in the sixth preceded Logan Morrison's RBI single that staked Minnesota to a 5-1 lead. Odorizzi became the first Twins pitcher with two sacrifices in the same game since Glen Perkins on June 26, 2009, also in an interleague game at Busch Stadium.
Odorizzi knew before his sixth-inning plate appearance that he would not return to the mound. By then, his pitch count had reached 93, although the only damage was a first-inning home run to first baseman Jose Martinez.
St. Louis mustered just one other hit against Odorizzi, a third-inning single by Francisco Pena. Odorizzi walked two and struck out three.
"Jake threw the ball well," Minnesota manager Paul Molitor said. "Obviously, (the Cardinals) fought him. He had to throw a lot of pitches to try to finish hitters off. But that's kind of how you draw it up. You try to stay close and then you add on to the lead."
Odorizzi improved to 2-1 in four career starts against the Cardinals, his favorite team as a youth. He is 2-0 in three starts at Busch Stadium, the first two coming as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays.
"It's always fun," Odorizzi said of pitching in St. Louis. "There's always family, friends here. It's one of those places that always will be special. ... I was happy to get (the bunts) down and move some guys up."
Since it was a weekday afternoon game, Odorizzi left just 16 tickets for supporters, two of whom were his parents, Mike and Judi.
"Not anything too terrible," Jake Odorizzi said. "I kind of treat this as a business trip. I don't usually go out and do a bunch of stuff with family and friends. It's hard enough as it is to come here (and say), 'If you see one person, you should see them all' — that sort of thing. So I try to keep it baseball and I'll see them after the game if I pitch that day, or whatever it may be."
Odorizzi wasn't sure whether there were any high school friends in the group.
"They're working now," he said. "It's tough for them to get off. Too many people call in sick and it starts to look a little suspicious."
Martinez pounced on a belt-high fastball on a 2-2 pitch in the first, sending it into the hitting background in deep center for the Cardinals' lone highlight of the game. It was Martinez's fourth homer of the year.
"Just a little bit up," Odorizzi said. "Maybe it came back (over the plate) a little bit. He put a good swing on it and got it over there. It happens, but I settled down pretty good. Everything other than that was pretty good today.
"I could have (gone longer), but the way things have been going, I respect what (Molitor) has to do. It's his call. I don't have any problems with coming out of the game right there."
Greg Garcia walked in the second, Pena blooped a single in the third and Martinez walked in the fourth for the only other runners against Odorizzi. After the Martinez walk, the next 18 Cardinals were retired by Odorizzi and three relievers.
"With two outs and nobody on, he was trying to elevate (to Martinez)," Molitor said. "He got it a little bit over the middle of the plate too much and the guy didn't miss it. But he settled back in. Pitching here is probably pretty special. He did his job executing a couple of (bunts) as well as giving us five good innings."
Odorizzi was 40-37 in five seasons with the Rays, who traded him to the Twins in February for minor-league infielder Jermaine Palacios. Odorizzi enjoys the new chapter in his career.
"It's been good," he said. "There's a lot of great guys in this clubhouse. Everybody gets along. It's a very well-rounded group and a very complete group. We have the ability to do something really special if we continue to play this way. I think there's a lot of good things ahead."