MILWAUKEE — It’s been a little more than a year since Randy Dobnak showed up in Minneapolis ready to make his major league debut after quickly jumping through three levels of the minor leagues earlier in the season.
His story quickly caught peoples’ attention — he went undrafted out of Division II Alderson Broaddus University and wound up pitching for the Utica Unicorns in the United Shore Professional Baseball League. He signed a minor league deal with the Twins in 2017 and, to make ends meet, he drove for Uber — and had a nearly perfect 4.9-star rating.
As good as his backstory is, Dobnak’s early career has been even better. And after another strong effort on Monday night, Aug. 10, in which Dobnak pitched the Minnesota Twins to a 4-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park and helped them snap their four-game losing streak, the Twins righty is the owner of a 0.90 earned-run average, the lowest among all qualified starters.
Dobnak has given up just two runs this season — the run he gave up in the second inning of Monday’s game was the first since July 25 — in 20 innings pitched. In his career, Dobnak has given up just seven earned runs in 48 1/3 innings pitched, good for a 1.30 ERA.
“I trust myself, and every time I go out there, I have 100 percent confidence in myself to pitch to the best of my ability and give the team a chance to win,” he said. “That’s what I’m going to do every time I go out there, no matter whether I’m facing the Brewers or the Pirates or the Yankees. I’m going to go out there with the most confidence in the world and just do my thing.”
He did that again Monday, though he had to work out of some trouble against the Brewers (6-8) early on. Dobnak threw five straight balls to begin the game, but he was able to escape a situation in which the Brewers had runners on second and third with just one out.
“One thing from the get-go that I noticed was that his sinker was as nasty as it has been. He was throwing bowling balls up there,” catcher Alex Avila said. “The problem was that he was having a hard time commanding it. He was throwing a little bit harder than usual, which was good, But it was just figuring out a way to dial in the release point, using the offspeed throughout those first few innings. … As the game went on, he was able to command that sinker more. And then we were able to break out the full repertoire.”
The only run he gave up came in the second inning when an Orlando Arcia double went over a leaping Eddie Rosario in left field and allowed Luis Urias to score.
But Rosario quickly turned that deficit into a lead during the next half inning. After singles from Avila and Max Kepler as well as a Nelson Cruz hit by pitch, Rosario pounced on the first pitch Adrian Houser threw him, a changeup, sending a ball to the Toyota Territory in center field to put the Twins (11-6) up 4-1.
“Obviously we were all waiting for that clutch hit. Luckily, I was able to connect tonight,” Rosario said. “In talking to some of my teammates, not to keep our heads down, work together as a group, as a unit. We have younger players, and just trying to keep the morale up. I think I was able to do that today. And I’ve done it before.”
The grand slam, which manager Rocco Baldelli called “vintage Rosie,” provided the only offense of the game for the Twins, but it was enough run support for Dobnak, who wound up giving up just four hits in his five innings, and a quartet of the Twins’ most trusted relievers — Trevor May, Tyler Duffey, Sergio Romo and Taylor Rogers — who each threw an inning in the win.
“You’re looking for that moment. You’re looking for that guy to come in and do something, and today that was Rosie, and that was Dobnak and our bullpen that really came up huge in a game where I’m sure a lot of the guys feel like we needed it,” Baldelli said.