Miguel Sano hit the ball high and deep and into the right-field corner, because that’s what sluggers with a flair for clutch, late-innings drama do. The ball fell just short of the wall, but Sano rounded first base and sprinted toward second, because that’s what athletes who haven’t given up on a game or a season do. Then he passed second and chugged toward third — because that’s what young, emotional, frustrated, victory-starved ballplayers do.
They do too much.
Sano was easily tagged out Sunday, the final mistake, and final out, of the Twins’ fourth straight loss, 6-5 to the Tigers, and the 22-year-old cleanup hitter was understandably upset with himself afterward.
“I was trying to get to third base. I knew I had a double right off the bat, but I wanted to help the team win and I started running,” Sano said in a gloomy Target Field clubhouse. “There’s not much to say. I made a mistake.”
His base too far was hardly the only one. It probably wasn’t even the most costly one. But it was the one that summed up an April, and now the makings of a May, that the Twins wish had never happened.
“It’s a symptom of where we’re at. Young players get emotional, they try to do more than the situation calls for,” Twins manager and grief counselor Paul Molitor said. “There’s no advantage to trying to get to third there, we all see that — from a perspective that’s not in the middle of the play. But when a young player is playing emotionally and trying to find a way to help a team, sometimes your decision-making isn’t what it should be.”
It’s not just the decisions that have landed the Twins in the AL Central basement, as owners of a 7-18 record that’s worst in the league. It’s the execution, and perhaps the luck, of the tiniest details that keep making this whirlpool of a season even worse.
A fan touched Sano’s double in the left-field corner, killing the play and preventing Joe Mauer from scoring. An inning-ending grounder glanced off Ricky Nolasco’s glove, serving up a run. A bobbled relay by Eduardo Escobar prevented him from cutting down Detroit’s go-ahead run at the plate.
And Nolasco, knowing he was making his final pitch of another impressive start, left a slider hanging in the strike zone, spoiling his entire day, and the Twins’. Nick Castellanos launched it one row deep into the left-field stands, turning a 5-2 Twins lead into a 5-5 tie — and another catastrophe piled onto the Twins’ stiff-upper-lip psyche.
“That loss is on me,” Nolasco said, shaking his head in frustration, “because if I make that pitch, we win that game.”
Perhaps. Or maybe misfortune would have simply chosen another victim, because that’s how it feels to the people in Twins uniforms these days.
“Most of the game, we were fine. Obviously, when you squander a lead, it changes a little bit, but even headed into the ninth inning, we had the good part of the lineup coming up with a chance to extend the game. There was still a good attitude about our chance to do that,” Molitor said. “Miggy got a hit, but we just lost the opportunity there.”
Too bad, because the game was full of two-out rallies. Five of the Tigers’ six runs scored with two outs, and the Twins started the trend in the first inning, off former teammate Mike Pelfrey. With two outs, Mauer singled, the first of his three hits that extended his streak of reaching base to all 25 games this season.
Sano walked, and Byung Ho Park and Oswaldo Arcia both drove in runs with line-drive hits, giving the Twins a lead for the first time all weekend.
Sano finished with two doubles and a single, adding 23 points to his batting average along the way, but after the way the game ended — for him and his team — he was hardly smiling about it.
“I don’t care about a hit or three hits,” Sano said. “If my team’s not winning, I’m not too happy.”
Safe to say, he hasn’t been smiling much lately. None of the Twins have.