NEW YORK — A handful of extra notes as the Twins leave the Bronx behind for another year:
Twins general manager Thad Levine, after witnessing a week’s worth of losses on an ugly road trip, said he believes the shocking ninth-inning collapse on Thursday may represent a turning point in Minnesota’s season.
In a good way, he means.
“I’m very confident that with the talent we have in that [clubhouse] and the leadership, that this is going to be galvanizing,” Levine said as the Twins dressed quietly nearby. “I think they’re officially [angry] now.”
Like several of his players, Levine adopted a that’s-just-baseball attitude about the walk-off defeat on Gary Sanchez’s three-run homer. That attitude is why the Twins won’t be devastated by their seven-game losing streak, he said.
“We feel like we have a very talented team, but we fell into a bit of a rough patch. These are moments of adversity that either galvanize the group, or hamstring the group,” the general manager declared. “I’d expect they’re going to go home and be happy to play in front of a home crowd [that’s] not wearing ski caps. I believe things are going to turn around in short order.”
In fact, Levine added, “it’s going to add to the character of this team. It doesn’t tear the fabric at all. I’m as excited about this team as I was on Opening Day, and I think we’re going to be right there until the end.”
Levine wasn’t the only Twins employee preaching the power of positive thinking after Thursday’s loss.
Fernando Rodney said he feels fine, just a little unlucky. He got two batters to hit ground balls before Gary Sanchez’s home run, and neither of those grounders were turned into outs, setting up Sanchez’s heroics.
How can he get past this? “Be positive. Try to motivate my teammates more, and the guys in the bullpen,” he said. “We can do it, we can make it happen. You tell the team, we have to trust each other and go play good baseball.”
He even predicts an end to the Twins’ misery against New York. “That’s baseball. Sometimes it goes a different way. Sometimes you have a team you can’t beat, I don’t know why,” he said. “I believe in the team we have. It’s going to happen soon, we’re going to come in here when we have to, the playoffs or whatever it is, and beat the Yankees.”
Kyle Gibson had a no-hitter going until the sixth inning. But the ghosts of Twins losses past arrived in a hurry.
With the Twins leading 3-0, Brett Gardner hit a ground ball into center field, New York’s first hit. Then Aaron Judge drew a walk, and up to the plate came Didi Gregorius.
Wait, Gardner and Judge on base, Gregorius at the plate, the Yankees down 3-0? You may remember this very situation from last October, when the Twins’ hopes for a wild-card victory were undone by Gregorius’ clutch home run.
“Yeah, in close games against these guys, you’re never thinking about danger, but you know it’s always a possibility,” Gibson said. “I just tried to keep making pitches.”
Had the bullpen not been so overused already this week, manager Paul Molitor said, he may have pulled Gibson. But he’s glad he didn’t.
Gibson got behind 2-1, but sensed Gregorius was expecting a fastball. “I really hadn’t thrown many changeups, and the ones I did throw were just OK,” Gibson said. “In that situation, I got him thinking fastball away after he fouled the first one off, and I was able to throw a good changeup.”
Gregorius lifted it to center field and the crowd roared, but it was playable. Ryan LaMarre caught it to end the inning — and Gibson’s day, too.
“I would love to have had a chance at the third time through [the Yankee lineup],” Gibson said. “But you’ve got to trust a Hall of Famer’s instincts. [Molitor] has pretty good instincts for the game.”
The Twins were swept in a four-game series for the first time since Aug. 18-21, 2016 at Kansas City. Their seven-game losing streak is also the longest they’ve endured since September of that same season.