The count reached 3-2 with two outs in the sixth inning, and Ricky Nolasco’s pitch count stood at 103, its highest level in nearly a year. As he looked at Tigers baserunners on first and second base and prepared to deliver another slider to Nick Castellanos, Nolasco knew he was quite likely delivering his final pitch of the day.
He was right. He wishes he wasn’t.
“It’s a bad feeling,” Nolasco said of that pitch, which hung letter-high until Castellanos bashed it into the left-field seats, turning a three-run lead into a tie score and eventually, inevitably, another Twins loss. “I feel like I was throwing the ball pretty good all day.”
If Castellanos had swung and missed that pitch, it would have gone down as more evidence of Nolasco’s resurgence. He gave up a double to Victor Martinez in the second inning that turned into a run on a Castellanos sacrifice fly, and a fluky run in the fifth when Anthony Gose’s deep fly to left with two outs bounced away from Eddie Rosario. That mishap ended up a triple, but the inning appeared over when Jose Iglesias cracked a one-hopper back to Nolasco. Instead, it glanced off the pitcher’s glove, allowing another run to score.
“That’s just the story of everything going on here right now. We’re not catching any breaks,” said Nolasco, who gave up eight hits and struck out four, with no walks. “Yeah, it’s frustrating just knowing how close things could have been to going the other way.”
Never more so than in his final inning, though. He got J.D. Martinez on a foul pop, and struck out Miguel Cabrera. But Victor Martinez and Justin Upton singled, bringing up Castellanos, who had a fly ball and a pop-up so far. Nolasco stuck to his sharp-breaking slider on the third baseman, figuring he would miss eventually.
“Threw some pretty good ones, [and] he fouled some good ones off,” Nolasco said. “It put me in the count 3-2, and my mentality was still to throw the really good one and not give in. … It just hung.”
Not for long, and in that moment, Nolasco’s season ERA jumped from 3.24 to 4.05. And his emotion went from satisfied to disappointed and angry. Nolasco blamed himself for the loss — and at the worst time, too.
“I think we needed that win today,” he said. “That one pitch that I gave up kind of messed everything up.”
Manager Paul Molitor agrees that the Twins need a win. His team’s mental health might depend on it.
“Sure I’m concerned about that. The game can beat you up,” Molitor said of his team’s emotional state. “Whether it’s individually or collectively, some guys are struggling and some guys are doing OK, and as a team we’re not doing very well. The responsibility falls to myself and our coaches to try to find a way to keep these guys’ outlook looking forward and not backward. It’s challenging at times when things aren’t going your way, but we have to find a way.”
Nolasco sounded confident that they will.
“You’ve got to keep going,” he said. “It’s a long season, you’ve got to hold your head up high. Keep playing and just keep going out there every day. It’ll change.”
• Ervin Santana will accompany the Twins on their weeklong road trip to Houston and Chicago and will throw a bullpen session on the trip in preparation for his return from the disabled list. Santana, out with a sore back since April 20, is eligible to return Friday. “He’s close,” General Manager Terry Ryan said. Kyle Gibson and Glen Perkins, however, will stay behind and rehab their injuries.
• The Twins’ late loss, after holding a 5-2 lead, extended a disturbing trend for them: They have trailed in 24 of their 25 games this year, the lone exception being their 8-1 victory over Milwaukee on April 21.