Scoreboard-watching in May? You might think it’s way too early in the season for such things, but it happened Friday night at Target Field.
Right around 9:10 p.m., the right-field video board flashed “Final.” Atlanta had wrapped up its 11th victory, 7-1 at Philadelphia.
And the Twins officially owned the worst record in baseball.
“It’s challenging,” manager Paul Molitor said about an hour later, after his free-falling team cemented its big-league-basement status with a 9-3 loss to the Blue Jays — its eighth consecutive loss at Target Field and fifth in a row overall. “These guys are hungry to find ways to win, and it’s just not happening.”
Hasn’t happened yet this year, as the Twins’ 10-31 record demonstrates. And the affliction has now infected their home field, too; their last victory there was on April 26.
This one was reminiscent of another, lesser losing streak — last August, when a similar Toronto Massacre was Tyler Duffey’s personal nightmare. This year, the horror belongs to all his teammates, too.
Duffey, whose big-league debut Aug. 5 was demolished by the Blue Jays’ power-laden lineup, had a chance to demonstrate the improvement he’s made in the interim. Instead, the Blue Jays tagged him for an identical six runs, and tagged on an extra run and a half to his ERA, bloating it to 3.30 on the season, from 1.85.
Josh Donaldson reprised his welcome-to-the-bigs-Tyler blast with another halfway-to-the-border rocket on a 3-2 curveball, one of four titanic home runs hit by the Blue Jays.
“I tried to get it over instead of throwing the good [curve],” Duffey said. “In retrospect, I shouldn’t have done that.”
Jose Bautista, Michael Saunders and Darwin Barney also connected on no-doubt shots, albeit off Twins relievers Trevor May, Taylor Rogers and Michael Tonkin, to entertain a large Canadian contingent of fans who chanted, sang and cheered their country’s home team.
“I enjoy it. Anytime the crowd’s involved, home or away, I enjoy that energy,” Duffey said of the noisy Toronto fans. “It got me going, in a good way.”
Well, for a while. Toronto led 2-1 through five innings, but in the sixth, Molitor said, the Blue Jays “just kind of pecked away. They had some good at-bats, got a couple of two-strike, two-out knocks,” all of which turned into runs charged to Duffey, six in all. “And once we went to the bullpen,” Molitor said, “balls started flying around a little bit.”
Duffey’s dusting last August came in the context of an above-.500 Twins team that was hoping a rookie pitcher might spark a late-season winning streak and a charge to the playoffs. Duffey (normally) doesn’t pitch like that newcomer anymore — but the Twins certainly don’t resemble a playoff contender, either.
They are plummeting toward a different historical marker, actually. When they were 41 games into the their season, the 1962 New York Mets — whose 120 losses are the most in major league history — had a 12-29 record.
“In the past week, we’ve [given up] an eight-run inning, a seven-run inning, and tonight a five-run inning. Those crooked numbers make it tough,” Molitor said. “We had a good series in Cleveland, but in Detroit, things went backward a little bit. … And tonight, we couldn’t get enough offense once again.”
He means, virtually none except for Robbie Grossman, who wasn’t even on the team two days ago. Starting in left field, the newest Twin debuted with three hits and three RBI, getting an RBI double in the second inning, a run-scoring single in the seventh and his first home run since April 18, 2015, in the ninth.
“It just feels good to come in and contribute,” Grossman said. “It was a tough one today, but tomorrow’s a new day.”
He’s new here. He still thinks that’s a good thing.