When “we didn’t get no-hit by Justin Masterson” is the positive spin on a ballgame, it’s been a long afternoon.
So it was Sunday, when much of what went right for four games, especially their defense, went wrong for the Twins. But they still believe that they are on the verge of making sizable progress during the season’s final 10 weeks.
Of course, Scott Diamond has thought that for a while now, too.
Diamond gave up six runs for the fifth time this season during Sunday’s 7-1 loss to Masterson and the Indians, ending the Twins’ feel-good four-game winning streak and, he fears, putting his spot in the starting rotation in jeopardy.
“I feel like I’m close, but I’m not showing it on the mound at all,” the lefthander said after surrendering a two-run homer to Jason Kipnis and a three-run triple to Michael Brantley. “It’s frustrating how it’s continued to snowball, even into the second half. It’s something to keep moving forward with, and really just try to keep my job.”
His job, really? Diamond is 5-9 now, matching his loss total from last year’s 12-9 breakthrough, and his 5.53 ERA is higher than anyone on the staff except rookie Kyle Gibson. His next start is scheduled for Seattle, a good pitchers’ ballpark, but Diamond said the thought has crossed his mind that the Twins might be getting impatient.
“Anything is possible. I know I’m not pitching well, so anything could happen,” said Diamond, who thought he had changed his results with last week’s rain-shortened three-plus shutout innings against the Yankees in New York. He seemed especially frustrated Sunday, partly because he felt great in the bullpen, and partly because after loading the bases in the fifth, he gave up Brantley’s two-out triple, ending his day.
“If I make that last pitch and get that last out, the game doesn’t look as bad. I’ve just got to be able to shut it down,” he said. “But I’m still confident with my approach, and what I’m focusing on, and my stuff, even though it’s just not playing out the right way. I’m going to continue to attack.”
Few pitchers have attacked the Twins the way Masterson did, firing 95-mile-per-hour sinkers that surprised hitters as they approached the plate, then mixing in sliders to keep hitters off-balance.
“He had filthy stuff,” second baseman Brian Dozier said. “He mixes speeds really well. High in the zone, 95, 96, 97 mph — that’s tough to hit.”
Dozier was the only one who did, with a spell-breaking double leading off the seventh as no-hitter tension began to rise. Even that hit, preventing the Indians’ first no-hitter since Len Barker in 1981, was basically just some bad luck for Masterson.
Dozier swung at a first-pitch sinker on his hands, shattering his bat as the ball popped into shallow center field. Drew Stubbs made a desperation dive to preserve the gem, but the ball landed a foot in front of him and bounced past.
“It was just a matter of inches,” Stubbs said.
Dozier eventually scored on a Joe Mauer grounder and added another double in the ninth, but the Twins’ hopes of their second three-game sweep of the season was ruined.
Now the Twins head to Anaheim to face the Angels, hoping the momentum of their short winning streak can be regained away from home.
“We’re still playing good baseball right now. It’s a lot of fun,” Dozier said, adamant that the woe-is-us feel from the last road trip doesn’t return. “It’s a good start to the second half. [The Indians are] a good team. We need to keep it rolling, but we’re playing good baseball.”