Glen Perkins thought he could get a nice, easy first-pitch strike over to Yonder Alonso in the ninth inning Wednesday. Anthony Swarzak thought Seth Smith wouldn’t look for an inside fastball in the 10th.
They were both wrong. Perkins gave up a leadoff double, then lost the lead. Swarzak gave up a leadoff homer and lost the game as San Diego rallied to beat the Twins 5-4 in 10 innings at Target Field.
But the reason this is one of the Twins’ worst losses of the season was because they were inept during so many times earlier in the game. Their lack of execution killed them. When San Diego needed to execute, Alonso doubled, Rene Rivera walked, Alexi Amarista bunted them over a base and Everth Cabrera hit a sacrifice fly to tie the score in the ninth as if it was as natural as tying shoelaces.
When the Twins attempt those things, it makes for bad reality television — a show you know is bad but you keep watching to see what else could go wrong.
“I know we lost it at the end,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said, “but we lost it early.”
The Twins should have scored six, seven, eight runs on Wednesday for their fourth victory in a row. Instead:
Jordan Schafer was called out in the second inning when he bunted the ball hard off the ground and it bounced up and hit him. Bunting in the second inning against the Padres is questionable in itself. After Eric Fryer doubled to lead off the eighth, Schafer failed to get a bunt down again and ended up grounding out to third. Schafer did get a bunt down in the 10th, moving pinch hitter Kurt Suzuki to second.
This isn’t an indictment on Schafer. Nope, it’s the entire team. The Twins were 3-for 16 with runners in scoring position, which has been a season-long problem. After Schafer bunted into himself, Danny Santana was hit with a pitch to load the bases with one out in the second. Brian Dozier tapped into a force play at the plate and Trevor Plouffe flied out to end the inning. Dozier, recently ranked as the top player on the roster during a staff meeting, stranded runners on first and third in the fourth. Fryer was stranded at second after his leadoff double in the eighth.
Plouffe led off the ninth with a walk and was replaced by pinch runner Eduardo Nunez. Kennys Vargas who hit a three-run homer Tuesday, struck out on a fastball right down the middle from reliever Kevin Quackenbush — a pitch Vargas could have crushed. The Twins later had two on with one out in that inning, before Chris Parmelee struck out and Eduardo Escobar was robbed of a game-winning hit by Amarista.
The Twins left 14 runners on base. That’s how you lose a game in which the opponent walked seven batters and was 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
“It comes down to execution and getting the hits when you have to,” Gardenhire said. “That game should not have been where it was. A frustrating game for us.”
The timing for such a game couldn’t have been worse.
On Thursday, the Twins open a four-game series in Oakland, and the Athletics have a World Series berth on their minds after trading for big-name pitchers Jon Lester and Jeff Samardzija.
The A’s have the most victories in the majors but are trying to find their way since trading outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to Boston in the Lester deal. But their pitching staff is good enough to win 2-1 and 3-2 if it has to. And the Twins run into Oakland’s top three starters — Lester, Samardjiza and Scott Kazmir — during the series.
The Twins must be efficient on offense, something they weren’t Wednesday.
“It doesn’t get any easier,” Dozier said. “I promise you that.’’
La Velle E. Neal III firstname.lastname@example.org