First the Twins had to endure an 0-9 start to the season. Now here comes another slump.
The home clubhouse on Saturday was silent once again after the Tigers beat the Twins 4-1 at Target Field on the strength of Justin Upton’s three-run home run off a mistake pitch by righthander Tyler Duffey. The Twins didn’t mount much of a comeback, failing to string together hits or put balls in play when needed against righthander Jordan Zimmermann, who gave up one earned run over seven innings and became the first Detroit pitcher since Frank Tanana in 1988 to start a season with five consecutive victories.
But the Twins aren’t showing much fight, failing to respond for the second straight game when facing a 3-0 deficit.
“That’s not the recipe we want in order to win,” second baseman Brian Dozier said.
The Twins have lost three straight and six of eight. Their 7-17 April record was their second-worst record ever in that month.
Twins General Manager Terry Ryan watched part of batting practice Saturday to show he’s not hiding from the fact the team has underperformed.
“You can’t go through the stretch we’re going through and not feel it,” Ryan said. “I know they are feeling it, and so am I. We’re going through a bad time.”
You can’t hand one of the hottest pitchers in the game an early lead, but the Twins did just that for Zimmermann.
J.D. Martinez reached when Eduardo Nunez booted his grounder for an error. With two outs, Victor Martinez doubled to left. Duffey’s first pitch to Justin Upton was launched through a stiff wind and into the second deck for a three-run home run. Duffey threw a fastball when catcher John Ryan Murphy called for a curveball. So Duffey was going to suffer either way, from Upton hitting it or it hitting Murphy.
“It’s one of those things you learn from pretty quickly,” Duffey said. “A mistake that ended up costing us the game.”
Zimmermann’s control and off-speed pitches were too much for the Twins as he eased into the seventh inning. He gave up two hits the first time through the batting order. Byung Ho Park drove a home run into the bullpens in left center in the fourth, just the second earned run off Zimmermann this season and first home run.
Then the Twins really misfired on offense. Murphy reached second on a two-base error with one out in the fifth, but Danny Santana and Dozier struck out.
Meanwhile, the Tigers made it 4-1 in the sixth on back-to-back doubles by Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. Miguel Sano might have fueled Martinez’s double by taking a poor route.
Joe Mauer led off the sixth with a single but was stranded. Nunez led off the seventh with a single but was erased on a double play.
Santana led off the eighth with a walk, the third consecutive inning the Twins got the leadoff hitter on base. Twins manager Paul Molitor gambled and had Santana steal on a 1-2 pitch. But Dozier swung through the breaking ball and struck out. And, somehow, Santana was thrown out at second for a double play.
“We were down to our last six outs, and you don’t want to lose an out on the basepaths,” Molitor said, “but we didn’t have much going on and I didn’t want to lose my aggressiveness with guys that I think can pick up 90 feet there and change the look of the inning.”
Nothing is working for the Twins these days.
“We got to do a better job of not letting [the deficit] get to us early and keep putting guys on and still trying to compete,” Dozier said, “and we didn’t do that.’’