The MVP didn’t play, and the Cy Young Award winner lasted only five innings. So … it could have been worse?
Hard to imagine. The Twins gave up at least two runs in five innings Sunday, surrendered a historic number of hits and a mortifying number of runs, and limped out of Target Field in a rainstorm — or was it a seltzer blast to the face? — after absorbing a 13-4 loss to Detroit that sends them on a weeklong tour of first-place ballparks on the worst note possible.
At least they have Monday off. Rarely has a club appeared to need it more.
“I think everybody is worn out,” manager Ron Gardenhire said after the longest nine-inning game in Twins history, a 4-hour, 10-minute epic of endurance. “We’ve played a lot of baseball.”
Yes, but the idea is to display quality, not quantity. And while the Tigers hardly looked like a champion-in-waiting this weekend in getting outscored 42-31 over two wins and two losses, they made all the big pitches when they needed to Sunday, and collected way more hits than necessary. In fact, Detroit amassed 18 hits, even with two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera on the bench because of a sprained ankle, giving the Tigers 60 during the series. That’s the most that the Twins have ever given up in a four-game series, and the most the Tigers have put together since 1956.
The Twins racked up four runs and 11 hits themselves, most coming against reigning Cy Young winner Max Scherzer. But Scherzer exhibited a talent that Twins starter Kyle Gibson hasn’t mastered yet: damage control.
“He didn’t have his best stuff,” Gardenhire said of Scherzer, “but he made just enough big pitches.”
Scherzer left runners on third base in the third, fourth and fifth innings, and while his pitch count skyrocketed, the Twins believed they were in good shape, because Detroit’s battered bullpen was worked even harder this weekend than the Twins’.
“That’s what we were trying to do, get Max out of there in the fifth,” said Gibson, so they could victimize the tired Tigers. What was needed from him? “If I could just make a couple of pitches here and there,” he said.
He couldn’t. Gibson continually fell behind hitters, walked four of them and hit Torii Hunter on the elbow, and in the game’s critical at-bat, couldn’t put away Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez during an eight-pitch battle with the go-ahead run on second. After getting two quick strikes, Martinez kept spoiling strikes until he got one where he wanted it. It ended up ricocheting off the left-field wall.
“He’s a hard guy to put away. One [strikeout] looking in the last century,” Gibson said. (Actually, it’s seven this year, a remarkably small number, especially for a power hitter.) “The ball was on the white line [of the batter’s box] and he almost hit a homer. That’s pretty incredible, the combination of strength and just being pretty good.”
Neither bullpen was pretty good, but the Twins’ was worse. Brian Duensing gave up a two-run homer to Martinez; Samuel Deduno did the same to Rajai Davis; and Casey Fien gave up four runs, though his trouble was exacerbated by an ill-advised attempt at a sliding catch with the bases loaded by right fielder Oswaldo Arcia. That adventure turned into a three-run triple for Hunter.
“We didn’t have too many good things out of the bullpen,” said Gardenhire, who now leads his team to AL Central-leading Kansas City and AL East-leading Baltimore this week. “This series was a lot of games in a short period of time. It turns into a lot of innings out of the bullpen, and that’s just too much on them.”