Dallas Keochel takes the perfect game to seventh against the Pirates

MINNEAPOLIS – Dallas Keuchel is a World Series champion, Cy Young Award winner and two-time All-Star – a decorated and respected veteran nearing the end of a fruitful career. It’s safe to say that at this point, he has nothing more to prove to the baseball world.

But here’s still Keuchel, he may have been written off by many but he still continues to show that he has the stuff to threaten the sport’s record books.

On Sunday afternoon at Target Field, Keuchel pitched a perfect game in the seventh inning, retiring the first 19 Pirates batters before hitting a double by Brian Reynolds that ended a left-handed chase for the first perfect game in Twins history. Minnesota (65-60) capitalized on that effort to beat Pittsburgh 2-0 and take a season-high six games over Cleveland (59-66) in MLS.

“As long as I’m in the area and making sure I mix pitches and dig things right, like today, I can be as good as anyone out there,” Keuchel said. “That’s why I came back. It was such a good feeling.”

He’s as close to perfect as his left-handed Twins since Francisco Laureano perfected through 6 1/3 innings on June 12, 2011, and is tied for the third-longest such pitch by a Southpaw since the team moved to Minnesota in 1961 according to Elias Sports Bureau.

“It means you’re doing something right, and I mean that,” said manager Rocco Baldelli. “It’s no coincidence that he keeps finding ways out.”

That is until Reynolds, the 2021 All-Star, made a huge hack at 3-1 at lettering and fired the ball into right center field, where it hit the wall just out of reach for right fielder Matt Wallner. To end Keuchel’s attempt in history, striking 6 1/3 innings. Had the ball been a foot or less, Wallner thinks he’d get it.

Keuchel admits he was gassed at that point anyway. He blamed the hundreds of milligrams of caffeine coursing through his veins for lying to Baldelli before the half that he had the power to go the distance.

“I was kind of all over the place with two lines, and… [I] I was kind of lucky to get one [in the seventh]said Keuchel. “I knew I was running on fumes at that point. So it wasn’t a relief, but at the same time, when I got out, I knew I gave it my all.

Keuchel, who hits three, took off his hat and stared at the roaring crowd of 25,987 as he walked back to the first base dugout — a sight that would probably be hard to imagine as he struggled to hit a 9.20 ERA while jumping three teams last season.

Combined with Sonny Gray’s perfect 5 1/3 innings to start his start against Pittsburgh on Saturday, Keuchel made Minnesota the second team in the last 50 seasons to have consecutive perfect game performances of at least five innings in the same series, joining Cleveland, which has pitched three Consecutive times from June 29 to July 1, 2015.

With Joe Ryan almost set to return to the Twins’ starting rotation, it’s unclear how many opportunities Keuchel has left with Minnesota during the final month of the season.

But even after Keuchel allowed six earned runs in 1 2/3 innings to the Phillies in his final start, Baldelli said the Twins had every intention of giving him the ball again. And after an outing like Keochel’s on Sunday, Baldelli said his group has already talked about the possibility of a six-man rotation to keep the 35-year-old left-back in the mix when Ryan returns.

“He has put himself in a good position with hard work and a lot of perseverance,” Baldelli said. “You get rewarded by watching a guy go out there and throw a gem that way.”

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