So many of Randy Dobnak’s memories ranging back to his childhood have revolved around the Pittsburgh Pirates: Dobnak grew up in the Pittsburgh area. He went to the last game at Three Rivers Stadium as a kid, as well as the first game at PNC Park.
The Dobnak family had Opening Day circled on their calendars each year, always attending the first Pirates home game of the season. Dobnak remembers games sitting in the bleachers, trying to get all-star outfielder Andrew McCutchen’s attention.
He also remembers the time in 2014 that he was vacationing in Myrtle Beach, S.C., with his wife (then his girlfriend) Aerial, walking in and out of bars and restaurants looking for a TV to watch Gregory Polanco’s debut. He estimated he went to more than 150 Pirates games growing up.
Wednesday, Aug. 5, Dobnak made another Pirates memory: After walking across the famed Roberto Clemente Bridge to the park and then taking in the view of the skyline from the mound, the Twins starter threw a gem in his hometown, blanking the Pirates for six innings in the Twins’ 5-2 win. It was the sixth straight victory for Minnesota and the first time in team history the Twins have reached 10-2.
“It was just really special for me just to get out there, pitch on the mound where I grew up coming to the games all the time and always thinking me and my buddies, ‘How cool would that be to be out there pitching on that mound?’ Today it finally came true,” Dobnak said. “It’s awesome.”
Dobnak dominated the Pirates, working quickly and efficiently through their lineup. Dobnak got Polanco, whose debut he had rushed to watch, to groundout twice and admitted it was “cool,” to face the guys he had grown up watching. He induced 11 groundouts, and was pulled after just 71 pitches as the Twins remain cautious with their starters following a quick ramp-up period.
“Tonight, we were all just sitting there watching in awe,” reliever Tyler Duffey, who threw a scoreless eighth inning, said. “He was just filling up the strike zone with good stuff and just kept getting outs and he did his job tonight thoroughly and giving it to us, you can’t ask for a better handoff.”
Dobnak, who has now thrown 12 straight scoreless innings and lowered his ERA to 0.60, gave up just three hits and held the Pirates (2-10) in check while Pirates starter Trevor Williams was holding the Twins in check. The Twins managed just three hits of their own off Williams in his seven innings, the only run off him coming on a Marwin Gonzalez pop up in the second inning near the left field line that was originally called foul.
That was the only run for either team until the ninth inning when the Twins added four insurance runs with another Gonzalez run-scoring single and a Max Kepler three-run home run. Twins reliever Jorge Alacala gave up a two-run home run to Josh Bell in the bottom of the ninth, though the Pirates could do no more damage than that, giving Dobnak a well-deserved win in his hometown.
“It’s a fun night,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “It’s the way you hope it plays out for a guy on your team in a big moment in the place where he really wants to be.”