Twins Insider: Closing victory can't mask awful road trip

The Twins managed to end their 10-game trip with a second victory.

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - Music thumped throughout the visitors clubhouse Sunday at Rangers Ballpark. It's been a while since the Twins were party rocked.

"Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO was one of several up-tempo tunes to match a rare up-tempo day, a day the Twins offense and Cole De Vries' pitching held off the Rangers in a 6-5 victory that ended a dreadful road trip on a positive note.

The Twins badly needed a victory, having lost five in a row and 14 of 16.

"So bad," said Ben Revere, who reached base five times to set the table for the heart of the order.

Added manager Ron Gardenhire: "A very nice win after a long, long road trip and a lot of tough baseball games."

But one victory does nothing to mask the myriad problems this club has, a club with some pretty good players on the roster. The Twins completed a 2-8 road trip, the first time they ever went 2-8 on a road trip in 11 seasons under Gardenhire.

In fact, with assistance from baseball-reference.com, the 2-8 trip is their worst record on a trip of at least 10 games since they went 1-10 during an 11-gamer in 1997.

For a record like that to occur, a lot of things have to go wrong. And a lot of things did.

• The starting pitching constantly put the team in a hole and overworked the bullpen. Notably, Nick Blackburn capped a run of poor outings with a bad one in Seattle at the start of the road trip Aug. 17, a start that not only got him sent to the minors but removed from the 40-man roster outright.

De Vries, thanks in part to a rain delay of nearly 1 1/2 hours, lasted only five innings Sunday. They were quality innings, as he retired the final 12 batters he faced to win for the first time since June 30. Still, that made it six consecutive games in which a Twins starter failed to go at least six innings.

• The Twins were shaky defensively, especially the left side of the infield. Pedro Florimon looks smooth at short and yet has committed four errors in 10 games. Third baseman Trevor Plouffe failed to make several plays during the road trip. After missing a grounder and committing an error on back-to-back plays Thursday, Plouffe spent a day as the designated hitter.

• And the offense is supposed to reliable, but the Twins are batting only .253 this month, and their 101 runs in August are just 19th in the league. Only once in the eight losses on the trip did they score more than three runs.

The Twins have the worst record in the American League and the fourth worst in the majors. They need to win 11 of their final 35 games to avoid 100 losses.

"There's far too much talent for us to get beat the way we're getting beat," first baseman Justin Morneau said. "Sometimes you'll lose, and sometimes you run into a hot team. Those first three games [against Texas] were not good. Obviously, that's a team that has been to the World Series the past two years for a reason. But [we] can at least give them a better game than we gave them the first three."

Morneau was asked about team morale, and he seemed to reference last year, when the Twins' chemistry was challenged and reports arose about young players being selfish.

"We understand how we're playing," he said. "Nobody's really turned it into selfish or 'me' time. Everyone is still trying to play for each other. Everyone is still trying to do the right things and just trying to play the game the way we're supposed to play.

"When things get bad is when guys become selfish and say, 'I gotta get my numbers. I gotta do this,' instead of saying, 'I just gotta do what's right for the team,' and I still see that happening. If it starts to go the other way, I'm sure Gardy will say something."

The Twins remain united.

But it's time for Twins United to produce more wins.

La Velle E. Neal III • lneal@startribune.com

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