Joe Ryan is a strikeout shy of matching the single-season record for a Twins rookie. But that is not the piece of history he most covets.
He has potentially two more starts left in 2022, ample time to overcome Francisco Liriano's 144 K's in 2006. But not enough to take Roger Erickson's 1978 total of 265⅔ innings pitched as a rookie.
"I'd rather just throw more innings, I think. That's probably the most frustrating thing," said Ryan, who lasted only four innings in Saturday's 8-4 victory over the Angels, a victory that ended the Twins' five-game losing streak. "I'd rather throw as many innings as I can — with zeros."
Ryan added it's "annoying" any time he doesn't stay in the game past six innings. And perhaps Saturday was particularly irksome, since the 26-year-old was coming off his longest outing of the year in his previous start of 7⅔ innings.
In fact, the Bay Area native's past two outings were two of the best of his young career. He pitched seven no-hit innings Sept. 13 against Kansas City, losing his case to Twins manager Rocco Baldelli to stay in for a potential no-no. And a week ago at Cleveland, he gave up just three hits with no runs pitching into the eighth inning.
At Target Field on Saturday, Ryan took the mound with 30,959 announced fans watching amid misty and cool weather. He kept the Angels without a hit for two innings but didn't quite feel up to his previous standard.
The Twins put up an early 3-0 lead from Gio Urshela's RBI double and Gary Sanchez' sacrifice fly in the first inning, plus Carlos Correa's RBI base hit in the second. But Ryan let the Angels come back in the third, letting Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani deliver an RBI double and two-run single, respectively.
In all, he gave up four hits and three walks with five strikeouts.
"He had to kind of work his way and kind of fight through some things out there," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "He's coming off two phenomenal starts, where, I've said it before, but his stuff was way up, and he held it the entire game. The command of all his pitches was there. I think [Saturday], I don't know if it was weather, I don't know if it was just a little bit of a different feel for him out on the mound, but he didn't quite look the same as he did the last two starts."
Luckily for Ryan, the Twins had nearly a full bullpen to turn to, and Griffin Jax, Caleb Thielbar, Michael Fulmer and Jorge Lopez combined for four no-hit innings and four strikeouts with only one walk. Rookie Jhoan Duran came in to for the ninth and loaded the bases with just one out, letting one run score on Trout's sacrifice fly, before retiring Ohtani to end the game.
The Twins offense also perked up, stacking up 11 hits. Jake Cave helped put the Twins back into the lead with a leadoff triple in the fourth, coming home on Jermaine Palacios' sacrifice fly. Sanchez' three-run homer in the fifth combined with Urshela scoring on Gilberto Celestino's groundout in the seventh put them up 8-3.
"Obviously, these last 10 games don't count," said Jose Miranda, who was 3-for-5 with a run Saturday, "[But] you want to go out there, you want to have good at-bats, you want to play good defense. It doesn't matter if you're out of the division: you go out there and play your best."
The Twins (74-78) did see the AL Central officially elude them with Friday's loss. Their elimination number in the wild card is down to two with Seattle winning as well.
There's 10 games left in the season to see a miracle occur. But even if that doesn't come to pass, the Twins will still take the little joy they gleaned from Saturday's result.
"Offense was outstanding, so that was a bright spot. Always good to see that to, and to get the win is huge," Ryan said. "But personally, it's definitely frustrating. But as a team, good energy back in the clubhouse, feels great. Carry that to [Sunday] and the next couple of road trips."