Even if a baseball team isn't hitting well, it can still score runs with productive at-bats. The Twins are having trouble doing even that right now, with the fifth inning of Saturday's 1-0 loss to Oakland a monstrous example of where their offense is.
Danny Valencia and Luke Hughes opened the inning with singles, with Valencia chugging into third after Hughes' hit.
With nobody out, a run could have scored on something as simple as a routine double-play ball. But Alexi Casilla reached out at a curveball and tapped to the mound for one out, although Hughes was able to advance to second.
"I don't know what he was trying to do there," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Casilla. "It looked like he was trying to slap the ball somewhere."
When a ground ball hit to the right side of the infield could have scored a run with run out, Denard Span popped to short on the first pitch.
"I got what I was looking for,'' Span said of the curve he expected. "I looked at the video. I was on the pitch. I went to swing and it came off my bat the wrong way.''
When the Twins needed a big hit from a former league MVP, Joe Mauer grounded out to second to end the inning.
"We have a lot of run-producers that are supposed to be driving the ball for us,'' Gardenhire said, one night after his team scratched together two runs in the eighth inning to beat the Athletics 2-1 in the home opener. "It's kind of a team thing, not an individual thing.''
Oakland scored in the next inning, when Casilla's throwing error with two outs enabled Kurt Suzuki to record the only run of the game. A's lefthander Gio Gonzalez combined with former Twins relievers Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes to stymie a Twins offense that is batting .203 with a .264 slugging percentage through eight games.
And it took 3 hours, 5 minutes to play a game in which one run scored, thanks to five walks by Twins pitchers and some deep counts from righthander Nick Blackburn. The Twins have played six consecutive one-run games, going 3-3.
"A three-hour, 1-0 game," Gardenhire said. "I don't think that's supposed to happen."
Did the bats get loaded onto the wrong truck leaving Florida? The Twins spent training getting key players healthy, and there they talked about how robust the offense was going to be. Coming off of scoring 781 runs last season -- sixth in baseball -- offense wasn't supposed to be a problem.
"You have to tip your hat to the other side too, because the young man threw the hell out of the ball,'' Gardenhire said. "Good stuff, great stuff as a matter of fact. Good pitching can shut down good hitting, and we have been facing a lot of good pitching.
"But we definitely are not swinging the bats as well as we are capable of.''
The Twins are capable of hitting good pitching, but only two regulars -- Span and Jason Kubel -- are batting .290 or better. Justin Morneau (.185) and Michael Cuddyer (.125) had abbreviated spring trainings because they had to get healthy first, and their swings might still be catching up. Everyone believed Mauer's bat was the last thing to worry about, but he is batting .231 and has grounded out to second a whopping eight times in seven games.
No matter how bad it looks, however, early April trends mean little.
"Once we get it going,'' Span said, "some teams are going to have to pay.''