ANAHEIM, CALIF. – The Angels’ Jett Bandy hit a fly ball down the right field line in the fifth inning on Wednesday, and little did he know it was about to become the latest snapshot in a Twins season gone sideways.
Max Kepler, the right fielder, looked up, saw the ball, then sprinted to where he was convinced the ball was headed.
“I thought it was going to get to the wall,” Kepler said. “I was thinking the wrong thing.”
Just as Kepler got to the foul line, he saw that the ball was going to fall behind him. And there was nothing he could do about it.
Instead of a routine inning-ending out, the ball fell in for a hit. Two runs scored. The Twins bench collectively gasped in disbelief, with bench coach Joe Vavra slamming his hand on the railing. Los Angeles ended up scoring five runs in the inning, and poured some more on until the Angels had a 10-2 win that allowed them to take two of three games in the battle of last-place teams.
It marked the eighth time an opponent has scored at least 10 runs against the Twins, the most in the American League. The Angels won back-to-back games for the first time since May 30-31, which happens when Twins starters post a 7.04 ERA in a series.
The Twins packed up after the game to head home and prepare to play host to the Yankees for four games. The Yankees will be ornery after losing two games to Colorado. The Twins will be tired, as their red eye will get them to town in the early morning.
Kepler’s mistake wasn’t the only one on Wednesday. Tyler Duffey needed 99 pitches to last 4 1/3 innings. Eduardo Nunez booted Mike Trout’s grounder to start the fourth, an inning during which the Angels scored two runs. C.J. Cron hit a two-run double in the sixth, largely because Robbie Grossman took a bad route to the ball.
The Twins are 20-45 because they bunch their mistakes better than they bunch hits together.
“It’s disappointing,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “Even in defeat, you would like to play more soundly. You are going to make errors, we all know that. But sometimes those missed plays, they are hard to explain. Nunie missing Trout’s ball is one thing, some of those other plays...
“I think Robbie got fooled on that one ball out to left. He thought it was going to hook more and it actually cut back towards the gap.”
Duffey started off with three no-hit innings, but it was deceiving because he labored with some hitters and needed 54 pitches to get through those three innings.
The struggles continued in the fourth inning as the Angels took a 2-0 lead. But it wasn’t all his fault as Nunez booted Trout’s grounder for an error. Cron slapped a pitch the other way to put two on with one out. Jefry Marte ended a nine-pitch at-bat with a single to right to drive in Trout. The Angels got a second run on a fielder’s choice.
In 4 1/3 innings, Duffey gave up four earned runs on six hits and three walks with two strikeouts. He has an 8.35 ERA over his last six starts, which makes his spot in the rotation tenuous.
“I have given up a few hard hits when it counts,” Duffey said, “but ground balls have been just perfectly placed. I feel like that has happened to everybody. A bunch of balls just right where guys weren’t. There’s nothing to do about it. It’s baseball sometimes.”
Brian Dozier led off the fifth with a walk and eventually scored on Kurt Suzuki’s RBI single to make it 2-1. That was right before the debacle in the bottom of the inning. The Angels loaded the bases against Duffey before Cron drove in a run with a single. Taylor Rogers replaced Duffey and gave up a run before striking out Johnny Giavotella for the second out.
Then Bandy’s fly ball looked like the third out. Until it wasn’t.
“I’m going to wear it,’’ Kepler said. “I made a mistake. It’s my fault. I’m wearing it. I’m going to deal with it.”