There was no word on when the missing Twins players will return to health Wednesday. Meanwhile, the offense went hitless with runners in scoring position during a 6-2 loss to the Nationals while Cleveland downed the Angels — again — to close the gap in the Central Division race to four games.
The depth the Twins have leaned on all season suddenly doesn’t exist, and their lead is shrinking. Not good for a team trying to close out its first division title since 2010, and also not good when Washington starter Stephen Strasburg can look at the Twins lineup and breathe a sigh of relief when six players who have combined for 139 home runs are not in it.
The powerful Strasburg held the Twins on Wednesday to a two-run homer by Jorge Polanco over six innings as he improved to 17-6.
“We’re facing a really good starting pitcher, a guy with good stuff, and I thought we made him work pretty hard to get through the middle of the game,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We had some opportunities to score runs. We just weren’t able to push the runs across. I think we were pleased with the at-bats we had. You just hope you could squeeze a few more across and put yourself in a good spot.”
Or squeeze more healthy bodies into the lineup. Marwin Gonzalez has an abdominal/oblique injury that has taken longer to heal than expected. Max Kepler has soreness in a scapula area of his back. Miguel Sano has a sore back, Jake Cave a mild groin strain and C.J. Cron a nagging thumb injury. And Jason Castro started at catcher instead of red-hot Mitch Garver.
Kepler hit in the cage Wednesday and Sano had his back scanned, which came back clean, but neither could yet play.
“I don’t have any firm statements as far as when these guys will be back, but we don’t really talk about those types of situations in collective terms,” Baldelli said. “Again, we didn’t have our full group out there [Wednesday], went out there and played a really nice game, so we’ll try to do that again [Thursday]. We could have potentially someone back or more back. We don’t know.”
Falling behind 5-0 to a Washington team in the middle of a wild-card fight — while the Twins went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position — is not a winning formula.
Twins starter Martin Perez gave up an RBI single to Juan Soto in the first inning on a grounder just past Polanco’s reach to drive in the first run. Two batters later, Ryan Zimmerman singled up the middle to drive in Anthony Rendon.
Perez got the first two outs of the third inning but walked Soto. Howie Kendrick followed with a liner to right field, where Eddie Rosario was playing so infielder Luis Arraez could start in left, where he has at least some experience.
Rosario looked to have a good read on the ball, but it sailed over his head for an RBI double. Perez had to throw seven more pitches to get out of the inning, but one was drilled into the seats by Zimmerman for a two-run homer and a 5-0 Nationals lead.
Perez tried to pick up Rosario after he missed the fly ball, but left a fastball over the middle of the plate to Zimmerman. He left trailing 5-2 after five innings.
“Set my mind to hold the game right there [in the third],” Perez said. “We’ve just got to score runs late in the game, and we have a good team. We have powerful guys. I was just trying to stay focused and throw a lot of strikes. Like I said, we didn’t score, and they played better baseball than us. They won.”