OAKLAND, CALIF. – If the Twins wanted to make a statement that the front office should not sell off any more assets before Monday’s nonwaiver trade deadline, they have a strange way of communicating.
Their play of late resembles a team incapable of getting back into playoff relevancy. Their 6-5, 12-inning walk-off loss to the Oakland Athletics on Sunday followed the same theme of their California road trip: strike early, fade late.
This time, Yonder Alonso homered off Tyler Duffey in the 12th inning, sending a no-doubter into the right field stands and completing the Athletics’ comeback from a five-run deficit. Oakland, the last-place team in the AL West, took two of three games from the Twins, who have lost seven of nine, including five of six on this road trip.
The Twins have led at some point in each game of this trip, which began with a sweep by the Los Angeles Dodgers. They have twice led 5-0. In Oakland, they led 4-1 Saturday and 5-0 Sunday. But they have been outscored 15-2 after the fifth inning during the trip. That’s why they are 1-5.
“We did a fairly decent job early in the game pitching and putting some runs on the board, but we got a little stagnant offensively,” manager Paul Molitor said. “What we’ve been doing too much of is letting these teams hang around. We had a chance to increase the lead and [did] not take advantage. Right now the bullpen, we’re trying to get the right people in there, but we’re just having trouble getting those last six outs to close out wins.”
Walk-off losses — they have had four this season, including each of the past two games — can demoralize a team. Especially one that feels it’s being unfairly left for dead in the division.
The loss dropped the Twins seven games behind Cleveland in the AL Central and five games behind Kansas City for the second Wild Card spot. Twins management veered from buyers to sellers in the playoff picture, trading pitcher Jaime Garcia. whom they'd acquired the previous week, to the Yankees over the weekend.
“I don’t think anyone is doing anything different, it’s just been the result has been the only thing that has been different,” Duffey said. “It’s tough pill to swallow, but you have to try to keep rolling with it.”
Duffey (0-3), who pitched two scoreless innings Saturday night, had just pitched a scoreless 11th and struck out Khris Davis to begin the 12th when Alonso attacked Duffey’s first-pitch changeup.
“He’s been swinging early all series, that’s his thing,” Duffey said. “Went with the changeup. Figured if he’d swing at it, there’s no way he’s hitting it. Just threw it right where his bat path was.”
Dozier led off the game with his 17th homer of the season. Eduardo Escobar added a two-run homer to make it 3-0 in the first. Joe Mauer hit a sacrifice fly in the third, and Robbie Grossman drew a bases-loaded walk in the fourth.
Oakland scored two in the fourth and one in the fifth to get within 5-3.
Taylor Rogers, who gave up a walk-off homer to Rajai Davis on Saturday, got the first two outs of the eighth before walking Ryon Healy. Davis pinch-hit and won the rematch with a single to right.
Ryan Pressly replaced Rogers but gave up a tying two-run double to left to Matt Chapman. Eddie Rosario wasn’t playing deep enough in left, and the ball sailed over him.
The Twins offense was sputtering at this point, with just a hit and two walks over the last five innings. The Twins struck out 15 times, including five times by Dozier, tying a Twins record for an extra-inning game.
“Sometimes I think guys get a tendency, especially in tie games, to try to do a little bit too much instead of just taking a good at-bat,” Molitor said. “It’s just one of those things. Really, throughout the whole trip we’ve scored runs early in the game but we can’t find ways to put any numbers up in the second half of the ballgame.”