October 5, 2022

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Listen to the HOFer: Odorizzi takes Verlander's advice to mound

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HOUSTON — Jake Odorizzi’s locker at Minute Maid Park sits right next to Justin Verlander’s, but after the first three starts each had made this season, that’s about the only way in which the Astros right-handers had been similar.

Verlander, coming off Tommy John surgery, recaptured his 2019 form instantly and once again looks like one of the best pitchers in the American League. Odorizzi, meanwhile, was reeling after three starts, including a couple of woeful outings, and may have been in danger of losing his spot in the rotation.

Perhaps that’s why Verlander — after Odorizzi gave up six runs (three earned) and recorded only two outs on April 20 against the Angels — pulled Odorizzi aside and shared some “pitching information” and “mindset information.” That was before a start against the Rangers on Tuesday in which Odorizzi gave up one run in six innings.

Odorizzi carried that momentum into his start Monday night against the Mariners at Minute Maid Park, throwing 6 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing four singles and one walk, to lead the Astros to a 3-0 win. Odorizzi has given up one run and five hits in his last 12 2/3 innings, lowering his ERA from 9.00 to 4.15 in that span.

“It’s really kind of opened my eyes to a lot of different things,” Odorizzi said of the talk with Verlander and another chat he had with third baseman Alex Bregman, who watched his weekend bullpen session in Toronto closely. “Having those types of guys in the clubhouse — obviously, they’re great players — but they’re invaluable when it comes to helping out teammates, whatever it may be.”

After he held the Rangers to one hit a week earlier, Odorizzi spoke about being tired of being kicked around and instead got into attack mode. When pressed Monday about what advice Verlander shared with him, he wouldn’t bite.

“I can’t tell you,” he said with a smile. “It wasn’t just me. It was groups of us. But when you have the Hall of Famer in your clubhouse and the success he’s had over his entire career, you tend to listen because there’s a lot of good information that he can come up with that can just give you a different view on things.”

Odorizzi was one out away Monday from finishing seven innings for the first time in nearly three years, but wound up walking Eugenio Suárez with two outs in the sixth. When manager Dusty Baker came to the mound, Odorizzi lamented not getting the swing he wanted on a 3-1 pitch.

“I should have been able to get through the inning right there with the way I was throwing the ball,” he said.

Baker said postgame he was impressed how Odorizzi held his velocity. His final pitch was 92.9 mph, which was above his 92.5 mph average on his fastball for the game. He also changed things up a bit from when the Mariners roughed him up April 15 in Seattle. He threw 31 cutters (35 percent) on Monday after throwing only nine cutters (11 percent) against the Mariners last month.

“He pitched us a little bit differently than he did last time, and we kind of anticipated that might be happening,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “He threw a lot more cutters. It was effective. Give him credit. He got outs and I thought we put some decent swings on him, but just not enough pressure. Some softer outs and didn’t really make him work extremely hard. He had some easy innings and he got deep in the ballgame for them.”

Even when he had a 9.00 ERA after three starts, Odorizzi said he didn’t feel he was too far away from getting his season on track. All it took was a little nudge from teammates to give him the confidence they still had faith in him, too.

“Sometimes you have to be able to keep the blinders on and keep pushing forward, even when the results aren’t there,” he said. “That’s what baseball is all about. You’ve got to have faith in yourself. That’s basically what it is. I want to try to go out there and do well for the other guys in the locker room and get some wins for everybody around here.”

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