The Twins have been embarrassed, frustrated and baffled by the bad baseball bug that has bit them late in the season and has them hurtling toward 100 losses.
But, Thursday night, they felt relief.
A couple of big blows enabled them to hold off the White Sox 8-5 at Target Field. It ended their losing streak at 13 games, one shy of the 1982 Twins for the longest losing streak in club history.
So, for the first time since Aug. 17 at Atlanta, the Twins shook hands on the field and smiled after a game. One great thing about baseball, there’s always another game to get things right. But the mounting losses were too much to use the short-memory technique.
“There’s no doubt about it,” said third baseman Trevor Plouffe, who hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning to give the Twins a 7-2 lead. “You never want to put yourself in that position. We have been trying to take it one day at a time, but when the losses add up like that, it’s hard to forget about them.
“We’re happy it happened today.”
And, no, there was no dance party in the Twins clubhouse after the streak-buster. Just the standard loud music.
The game was played before an announced crowd of 20,329 — but there appeared to be fewer than that at first pitch. The woebegone Twins have played themselves to the end of the list of options on a busy night in the Twin Cities. The Gophers football team and Vikings and the State Fair were in play Thursday night, better attractions than watching a baseball team that had been outscored by 129 runs in August.
After going 0-6 on their road trip to Toronto and Cleveland, the Twins were ready to try home cooking.
“It’s a good feeling,” manager Paul Molitor said. “You win the first time in a couple weeks. It wasn’t easy. It was a long game, a tough game.”
Down 1-0 in the second inning, the Twins struck for five runs on five hits, including a big blow from Byron Buxton.
Two runs were already in, Kurt Suzuki was on second and Eddie Rosario was on first. White Sox lefthander Jose Quintana, who entered the night leading the American League with a 2.77 ERA, left a 1-2 breaking ball over the middle of the plate to Buxton, making his first start since being called up from Class AAA Rochester.
Buxton, who began the day with a .199 batting average in 109 career big-league games, didn’t miss it. The ball sailed into the second deck for a three-run homer and a 5-1 Twins lead.
“His first three at-bats, I haven’t seen bat speed like that and aggressiveness like that out of him in a long time,” Plouffe said. “It was really cool to see.”
It should have been plenty of support for Ervin Santana (7-10), but the veteran righthander threw 102 pitches over five laborious innings, holding Chicago to only two runs despite 11 hits. Quintana also lasted five innings, but he gave up seven earned runs, the most for him since April 19, 2015.
The teams traded runs over the final innings, with Jose Abreu hitting a two-run homer for the White Sox, but the Twins bullpen managed to get 12 outs to finish off the game, with Brandon Kintzler earning his 13th save in 14 chances. Kurt Suzuki was 2-for-4 with two RBI.
The White Sox lost their fourth in a row. The Twins? They are 1-0 in September and don’t want to relive the horrors of August.
“You don’t want to just mail it in,” Plouffe said. “We want to play good baseball and there’s a lot riding for a lot guys, including myself.”