ARLINGTON, TEXAS — Plenty of Twins fans, even some of the most pessimistic sky-is-falling worriers, admit that the Twins’ schedule looks a lot less formidable over the next six weeks than it did the previous six. Remember, 26 games remain against the lower levels of the AL Central.
And on Thursday, the Twins were reminded why that’s an advantage worth having: Because non-contenders make a lot more mistakes than the good teams. No, their bad records don’t guarantee anything. But the sort of baseball that caused those poor records sure comes in handy.
Case in point: Texas’ starting pitcher couldn’t make it out of the fourth inning, the bullpen kept bleeding runs, and the Rangers’ defense committed two errors that turned a good Twins inning into a great one, all gifts that the Braves, Indians and Brewers rarely did over the past week and a half.
And then there’s the base-running.
The Rangers, who have now fallen below .500 on the season and trail Tampa Bay for the second wild-card spot by 10 1/2 games, were already looking at a 12-3 deficit when Devin Smeltzer entered the game in the sixth inning — so admittedly, their chances of pulling out a victory were slim.
But Texas sabotaged itself with one base-running blunder after another, somehow transforming an inning in which Smeltzer allowed two singles, two doubles and a home run from a heroic cavalry charge into a two-run fizzle.
Here's 15 seconds of the most embarrassing baserunning you may ever see:
“I’m not going to sit here and critique anything,” said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, clearly recalling some of his own team’s mistakes over the past month. “I’m just glad that our guys were heads-up and got the ball in, and hit the cutoff man, and executed those types of plays and rundowns and things like that.”
After Smeltzer allowed a solo home run by Hunter Pence to lead off the inning, things got weird. Willie Calhoun singled, and Rougned Odor doubled to center, but Max Kepler retrieved the ball and got it to shortstop Jorge Polanco in a hurry. Calhoun tried to score, but Polanco’s relay was quick and accurate, and Jason Castro put the tag on Calhoun in plenty of time.
Logan Forsythe followed with a sharp ground ball to Miguel Sano at third, but Odor had strayed too far off the base and was trapped. Sano ran him down, faked a throw a couple of times, and finally caught Odor and tagged him out.
There’s more. Jose Trevino singled, moving Forsythe to third. And when Delino DeShields doubled to left field, Trevino got greedy. The catcher tried to go first-to-third on Eddie Rosario, and paid for it. Three outs, all on the bases.
“My defense helped big-time. It was huge,” said an appreciative Smeltzer. “I had a couple of things go my way, even though I didn’t have much going my way."