KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The good feelings in the Twins' clubhouse generated by Andrew Albers' sensational debut Tuesday sure didn't carry over for very long. One day later, Twins players were packing up in virtual silence, ready to move on to Chicago (and the last-place White Sox) after another discouraging visit to what used to be a happy vacation spot for Minnesotans. Making it worse was Ryan Doumit's revelation that he may have suffered a concussion on Sunday.
The Twins went 2-7 in Kaufmann Stadium this season, and only four times in the teams' 45-year history against each other has their record in Kansas City been worse. They went 1-5 in 2000 and 1989, 1-6 in 1986, and 1-8 in 1974, but they had a winning record here in six of the last eight seasons.
Of course, the surging Royals had something to do with the different atmosphere, too -- they have won 15 of their last 19, though haven't made any headway in the A.L. Central, thanks to the Tigers' 11-winning streak. But Kansas City is just 2 1/2 games behind Cleveland and five games out of a wildcard spot.
Anyway, to steal a format from La Velle E. Neal III (or perhaps as an homage), here are three thoughts from KC:
SWING AND A MISS: The strikeout virus that is rampant in the majors these days has infected the Twins, and it's getting worse. They struck out 16 times tonight, the most in a nine-inning game this season, but it's amazing how recent the phenomenon is. Tonight's game was the 14th in which Minnesota hitters have struck out a dozen times or more, and eight of them have come in the last 30 days. They didn't have a single game with 12 whiffs in June, and had two in April and four in May. But it's turned into an avalanche now. Yes, the roster turnover is a part of it -- the Twins routinely play three to five players who have spent time in Rochester this year -- but they've also jettisoned strikeout leader Aaron Hicks and been without Josh Willingham, and the Ks keep on coming.
BRING ON THE SOX: The Twins, who enjoyed sweeping Houston last weekend, face the White Sox eight times in their next 11 games, a stretch that looked a lot friendlier three days ago, before Chicago swept the Yankees. The White Sox had lost 13 of their previous 14 games, and 27 of 35, so we'll see how much has changed. If avoiding a third straight 90-loss season is a reasonable goal for the Twins now -- they're on pace for exactly 90 at the moment -- they need to take advantage of this week, because there is plenty of Detroit, Texas and Oakland in their future, too. Another reality check: The Twins are nine games out of third place, but only 6 1/2 games out of last.
NOT SO HOMEY: The atmosphere in Kauffman Stadium just never felt the same for the Twins this year, and I realized this week that part of the reason was the lack of Twins fans in the stands. Yes, there were several folks in navy blue jerseys or the pinstripes, but they weren't nearly as obvious (and boisterous) as when that healthy contingent of Minnesotans make the drive to western Missouri. The past three seasons of Twins' baseball is surely part of it, but I'm guessing that the lack of weekend games -- all nine games here were played midweek -- severely limited the travel plans of Twins fans.