Randy Dobnak won a 10-pitch battle with Francisco Lindor in the first inning, eventually getting the superstar shortstop to fly out to left.
That would not be the exception on a night Dobnak’s mettle was tested over and over.
In the third inning alone, Dobnak had a 10-pitch encounter with Domingo Santana and a nine-pitch matchup with Oscar Mercado. Santana was back in the fifth for an 11-pitch battle royale, which ended in a walk.
Dobnak survived these skirmishes during a hard-fought five innings and was rewarded with his third career victory as the Twins took down Cleveland 4-1 on Friday night. Max Kepler led off the first inning with home run off Mike Clevinger, Eddie Rosario added a two-run double later in the inning and Alex Avila added a solo homer in the second.
Dobnak lasted five innings, shutting out Cleveland on three hits and two walks while striking out four. That’s a nice line, but he needed 94 pitches to through those five innings because of the lengthy battles he endured.
“But I’m trying to pitch to contact and they’d keep fouling it off,” Dobnak said. “I’d throw changeups, sinkers, sliders and they’d just keep fouling everything off.
“I got to a point where I was like, ‘I’m just going to throw it and if you can put it in play, hopefully you can.’ Obviously I’m going to try to put them away as much as I can. But once you get to a full count I’m just trying to get the ball in play. I don’t want to walk anybody. Nothing upsets you more than that.”
Pitch to contact? That makes Dobnak a throwback to Twins pitchers of yesteryear. It’s the mentality behind that which drives him to not back down.
In two plate appearances against Dobnak, Santana saw 21 pitches. That is not normal.
Part of the issue depends on how you look at the 30 foul balls Cleveland hit off Dobnak on Friday. That’s a lot, by the way.
But it reveals a mental toughness about Dobnak that the Twins admire. It’s one reason they gave him a start in Game 2 of the ALDS last October.
“It allows us to really do some other things with Dob because he is a young guy but you don’t necessarily have to have a lot of the conversations that you may normally have with young guys,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He’s kind of an older soul in some ways and he takes care of business, and I bet he’s an extraordinarily reliable human being not just at the park but in everything he does.”
The Twins bullpen gave up one run over four innings in relief of Dobnak, the run coming on Franmil Reyes’ RBI double off of Tyler Clippard in the sixth. Tyler Duffey pitched the seventh, Sergio Romo the eighth and Tyler Rogers earned the save with a 1-2-3 ninth.
Dobnak is expected to remain in the Twins rotation at least until righthander Jake Odorizzi is ready to pitch in games after recovering from a intercostal strain. But Baldelli indicated Dobnak could stick around even longer than that.
“I can assure you that we have not seen the last of Randy Dobnak,” Baldelli said. “He’s going to be pitching us to a lot of victories over the course of his career.
“He’s arrived and he’s going to be here and he’s going to be helping us win major league games. It does feel really good being able to pencil him in there and letting him start and go rack up some innings for us and pitch the way he’s pitched.
“I would say we’re probably going to wait and see what we are going to do with our rotation before we firm anything up this time around, because we have to see what Odo is doing and what his schedule is going to be like too. I can assure you that we have not seen the last of Randy Dobnak. He’s going to be pitching us to a lot of victories over the course of his career.”