CHICAGO — Three extras from another shocking loss for the Twins:
You might think the weight of 12 losses since leaving Puerto Rico might be getting heavy, or that the sudden shock of five walk-off losses, four of them on home runs, might be doing some damage. The Twins were adamant Thursday in denying that any such thing has occurred.
“This is where you’ve got to really have a short-term memory. If you start pressing, that’s when things are going to start going downhill,” said Addison Reed, who has surrendered two of the walk-off blasts. “And honestly, there’s nobody in this room that has shown any sort of panic. Nobody’s pressing. Everybody is still going out there, and things will turn around.”
Robbie Grossman said the same. “We’ve got a lot of season left. Lot of games left to play. We’re going to get out of it,” said Grossman, whose difficulty in picking up Matt Davidson’s double allowed Jose Abreu to score from first base. “It’s tough, but that’s baseball.”
Paul Molitor hopes his players are right, but man, he seemed to say, these losses sure inflict some pain.
“You can feel the energy when it gets sucked out,” Molitor said of the team’s walk-off losses. “[We had] a nice little vibe going on there. We got a couple of nice hits, Jake [Odorizzi] was throwing the ball well, and [Daniel] Palka homers. Next thing you know, you’re looking at a tie game. It challenges you to find a way.”
Speaking of Palka, the former Twins prospect, lost on waivers last November when the Twins tried to drop him from the 40-man roster, credits Rudy Hernandez for his breakthrough over the winter.
Hernandez, the Twins’ assistant hitting coach who also served as hitting coach on the Magallanes team in the Venezuelan winter league team that Palka played for, said he enjoyed working with young slugger, and is happy to see him in the majors, if not necessarily hurting his old team.
So what did Hernandez help Palka discover?
“We changed his approach a little bit. In Venezuela, they started throwing him so many breaking balls, he was moving forward and every time it was, roll over, roll over,” meaning he hit easy ground balls, Hernandez said. “And I said, ‘Hey, let’s work it the other way. Let those pitches go a little deeper, and use the whole field. Pretty soon, everything started to click.”
But it was too late to save his Twins’ future. “I said, man he’s a hitter. He’s a major-league hitter,” Hernandez said. “But two weeks later, we got that call [that the White Sox had claimed Palka]. I told him, it might be good for you.”
It seems so. Palka was promoted to the big leagues when Avisail Garcia was injured 10 days ago, and he’s collected seven hits — five for extra bases — in just 24 at-bats.
“Palka, he’s an ambusher and you can get him to chase,” Molitor said. “Once in a while, your split is going to hang, and he deposited it.”
Molitor guessed that Robbie Grossman, as he chased down Matt Davidson’s double, peeked at the infield to see where Jose Abreu was. That’s why, the manager surmised, he didn’t pick up the ball on the first attempt, an error that allowed Abreu to score.
“You can’t look to where you’re going to throw it until you picked it up,” Molitor said. “You’re not going to get a good grip.”
Grossman, though, said he wasn’t peeking. “I was just trying to grab the ball,” he said. “And I missed it.”
Molitor was less critical of his fill-in right fielder’s unfortunate attempt to catch the ball on the warning track, a leaping try that allowed the ball to bounce away by 20 feet.
“The ball was hit hard. I don’t know what the percent [of successful plays] is on that ball, but it had a lot of tail on it,” Molitor said. “He kind of reached one way and it was coming back over.”
Eddie Rosario had a better night in the outfield. He made a leaping grab of an Adam Engel blast in the seventh inning, right at the base of the wall. It looked like he robbed Engel of a home run, but Rosario said it would not have cleared the fence if he hadn’t caught it.