Joe Ryan is in the April of what appears to be a promising career. On Prince Night at Target Field, the Twins rookie learned that sometimes it snows in April.
After breezing through his first three major league starts, the right-hander hit a snag on Thursday, surrendering six earned runs on six hits and two walks in 4.2 innings as the Twins lost to the Detroit Tigers, 10-7.
An announced crowd of 21,186 watched the Twins lose their final home game of a disappointing season that started with plans to contend for a third straight American League Central crown. Barring a sweep this weekend in Kansas City, they will finish in last place.
Byron Buxton went 3 for 5 with two home runs, the second accounting for the go-ahead run in the seventh inning, but the Tigers scored three in the eighth inning, all charged to Ralph Garza Jr., to take a 9-7 lead.
Niko Goodrum homered twice and drove in four runs, and Alex Lange (1-3) pitched 1.1 innings of relief to earn the victory and Michael Fulmer pitched a scoreless ninth for his 13th save.
Acquired in the trade that sent Nelson Cruz to Tampa Bay ahead of the July 30 trade deadline, Ryan, 25, instantly became the Twins’ No. 6 prospect (according to MLB.com) and helped the U.S. win a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics before reporting to St. Paul in late August.
He had surrendered a combined 10 hits in his first five major league starts, never more than three runs, and took a perfect game into the seventh inning in his first career victory, a 3-0 win at Cleveland on Sept. 8. In his last start, against the Cubs in Chicago, Ryan struck out 11 in five innings.
“Listen, he’s not going to pitch the way he did against the Cubs in every single start. We know that,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I think he just missed in the middle of the zone to some hitters that were looking for some pitches, and they’re going to get hit.”
Josh Donaldson’s three-run home run gave the Twins a 4-1 lead in the third, but after fanning four of the first six batters he faced, Ryan faltered. After striking out Isaac Peredes to start the fourth, he gave up a double, a walk and Harold Castro’s run-scoring single before Goodrum hammered a pitch over the scoreboard in right field to tie the game 5-5.
In the fifth inning, Tigers leadoff hitter Akil Baddoo walked and later scored on a two-out single past shortstop Andrelton Simmons. That made it 6-5 Detroit and ended Ryan’s night.
“Obviously it’s good results in the first two innings, but I didn’t really feel like the stuff was as sharp,” Ryan said. “The fastball felt good the first two and then it just was not as good as I should be.”
Still, Ryan wasn’t moping after his shortest start in the majors. Instead, he expressed optimism for 2022, which is good because it appears the Twins are counting on him to be part of the rotation. He finished the season 2-1 with a 4.05 earned-run average in five starts and will still be a rookie next summer.
Known for a deceptive fastball, Ryan said he didn’t necessarily use his other pitches — slider, changeup and curve — to get batters out in the minors. He threw them “to get my work in.” That changed when he stepped up to the big leagues.
“Using my pitches, all four of them, in games to get positive results and getting positive results with all my pitches has been exciting for me,” Ryan said. “(It’s) something that I can work on this offseason that I’m really excited for.
The Twins honored reliever Taylor Rogers as the winner of the 2021 Carl R. Pohlad Award for Outstanding Community Service before the game. The award is given annually to recognize the community involvement and leadership of a current Twins player or coach. … Catcher Mitch Garver stole second after a seventh-inning walk for his first major league stolen base. … Target Field attendance for the Twins’ first season with fans since 2019 was 1,310,199 in 80 dates, including a straight double-header.