KANSAS CITY, MO. – The sheer amount of Gatorade the Twins are causing to be wasted around the American League this year is staggering.
For the incredible eighth time in less than a third of the season, Minnesota’s opponents scrummed around home plate on Tuesday night, jumping for joy and dousing that night’s hero — in this case, Alcides Escobar — with that sticky celebratory liquid, while the Twins trudged to their dugout in defeat. Escobar hit a 3-1 fastball from Taylor Rogers, the Twins’ fifth pitcher of the night, beyond the Twins’ bullpen in the 14th inning, earning Kansas City a 2-1 victory at Kauffman Stadium.
“We’re getting [plenty of] practice,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said of the Twins’ eighth walk-off loss of the season. “We kind of put ourselves in that situation by not scoring once again. You hate to have it come down to one pitch and a homer like that. There are certainly a lot of things up to that point we could have done better to give ourselves a better chance.”
He means like Brian Dozier not being thrown out at the plate on a laserlike throw from Alex Gordon, or Eddie Rosario not being caught in a rundown after rounding first base too far on a single. Had Addison Reed not suddenly lost his control, hitting Salvador Perez with a pitch in the eighth inning to load the bases, then walking Jorge Soler to force in the tying run. Or if the Twins hadn’t gone hitless after a leadoff single in the ninth inning.
Instead, Escobar joins Adam Jones, Carlos Gomez, Gary Sanchez, Trayce Thompson and Mike Zunino in disappointing the Twins with a walk-off home run this year; six walk-off blasts ties the Twins’ franchise record for a full season, set in the Ron Davis Days of 1985.
“It’s hard to explain,” Molitor said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen so many in a relatively short span.”
He probably hasn’t. Eight walk-off losses in the first 50 games of a season also ties the major league record, held by the luckless 1968 Pirates and the downtrodden 2010 Mariners. The Twins had to put on a late rally to do it, too, losing in walk-off fashion twice in four days. But they managed the feat by continuing their recent no-offense ways; aside from their eight-run breakout Monday against the Royals, the Twins have scored six runs in the other four games on this road trip. And they’ve scored four runs in 22 innings beyond the ninth this year.
Miguel Sano singled home the Twins’ lone run in the third inning, but after Reed walked in the tying run, neither team managed a hit in extras until Escobar’s blast. It dropped the Twins to 3-11 in one-run games.
“Sometimes you can kind of tell that’s the identity to a club if you lose a lot of close games. I don’t think that’s the fact here,” said Kyle Gibson, who pitched well but earned his seventh no-decision of the season. “We’ve got a good club that grinds out a lot of games. I think the one-run game [record], that will turn around here by the end of the year.”
If anyone is used to that lack of offense, it’s Gibson. The tall righthander pitched seven shutout innings, allowing only five hits and constantly pitching his way out of mild trouble. It’s the third time already this season that he’s contributed six or more scoreless innings. But what does Gibson, who was credited with a victory on March 31 but none since, have to show for such strong pitching? The Twins lost two of those brilliant starts; astonishingly, Gibson’s ERA is now somehow better in Twins losses (3.53) than wins (3.62).
“For the most part, he was good,” Molitor said. “Didn’t have a lot of high stressful situations, mostly it was clean and efficient. When you’re pitching with a tie and one-run game, it makes it challenging, but he held his own and got us through seven.”