DENVER – Joe Ryan will need to be ready for anything when the postseason begins next week, but at least he won't have to worry about pitching at Coors Field again.
Ryan surrendered eight hits and six runs across five innings in his final start of the regular season. It was his first time pitching in Colorado's altitude, and it brought back his issues at preventing the long ball. Ryan gave up three home runs, including a three-run homer to Alan Trejo in the fourth inning.
The Twins hit three homers of their own, and Max Kepler hit a sacrifice fly in the ninth inning to earn a 7-6 victory over the Rockies on Friday night.
"Stuff wasn't moving how I wanted it to move at all," said Ryan, who was puzzled by the vertical break on his pitches. "Honestly, I'm just going to look at it as a wash and not really put too much into it. Not playing here again for two years."
It was the first time Ryan yielded multiple home runs in a start since a stint on the injured list with a groin injury. He permitted 32 homers, tied for third-most in the American League, in 29 starts this year.
The Twins haven't confirmed Ryan is scheduled to start in the postseason, but he is lined up to start a potential Game 3 in a best-of-three wild-card series. He would receive an additional day of rest between starts, which is what the Twins are doing with Game 1 starter Pablo López and Game 2 starter Sonny Gray.
"It's probably not an outing that you're going to put most of your stock in when you are weighing everything," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "It's just one is what it is. We'll continue to kind of line things up and think about everything."
Much of the damage against Ryan came in a three-batter stretch in the fourth inning. Rockies catcher Elias Díaz, the MVP of the All-Star Game, lined a one-out double to center field in a two-strike count, connecting on an elevated fastball. Ryan walked the next batter before Trejo lifted a first-pitch fastball over the wall in left field for a go-ahead, three-run homer. The other two runs against Ryan were solo home runs.
Ryan closed his 2023 regular season with a 4.51 ERA and 197 strikeouts in 161⅔ innings. He eyed the 200-strikeout milestone, and he admitted it will probably frustrate him in the offseason.
"In the back of my mind, I was like this isn't the last one," Ryan said. "Postseason [strikeouts] count in my book. We earned it."
The Twins, who took an early 4-1 lead after Michael A. Taylor crushed a 468-foot, two-run homer in the second inning that sailed over the stands in left field, tied the score with back-to-back homers from Trevor Larnach and Ryan Jeffers in the seventh inning.
In the ninth inning, after the first two batters reached base, Kepler lined a ball in front of the warning track in center field to score pinch runner Andrew Stevenson.
Polanco exits with injury
Jorge Polanco exited Friday's game after the fifth inning because of right ankle soreness, but he's not worried about the injury affecting his availability for the start of the playoffs.
"I don't want to be selfish," Polanco said. "We're going into the postseason. I want to survive, so I just came out, made sure everything was good. Now, I know everything is good. It's just a little sore."
Polanco fell to the ground after he struck out to end the fourth inning, but he said that wasn't related to his ankle.
"I tend to do those kinds of swings," said Polanco, smiling. "I felt it before that."
Varland enjoying bullpen role
When the Twins initially moved Louie Varland to the bullpen at Class AAA St. Paul, he didn't love the idea of it. He worked his way to the majors as a starter and he wants his future to be in the Twins' rotation.
A few weeks later, mixed with dominant results, and Varland feels better about it. He went into Baldelli's office earlier this week and he told his manager he understood the move.
"He's as authentic of a kid as you're going to find," said Derek Falvey, the Twins' president of baseball operations. "I think it was a little bit of, like, do we not view him as a starter? It was like, 'No, absolutely not. We definitely view you as a starter. We just view your role on this team, with the group that we have, to be this bullpen role.' Then you start talking about how you can use him as a weapon, rather than, 'Oh, you're just in the bullpen.'"
• After Kenta Maeda pitched out of the bullpen Wednesday, perhaps a sign of his postseason role, the Twins will fill his spot in the rotation with a bullpen game Saturday.
• On a fireworks night, the 102-loss Rockies had an announced crowd of 47,272 on Friday.