Trade rumors. Job security questions. The Twins just wanted to return from the All-Star break and work on turning around their season.
Yet those are the consequences when you spend half the season on pace to lose 90-plus games for the third consecutive year.
“It’s not about a number. It’s about the fact that were not even at .500,” Twins owner Jim Pohlad said before Friday’s game. “That’s my goal at first, just get to .500, and then you can improve on that from there. And that’s not good enough, it’s just the first goal.”
Pohlad missed a large chunk of batting practice because the Twins hit the field early for an extensive workout. It’s meant to knock off the rust from the All-Star break, but it could have doubled as a wakeup call for the work needed to play winning baseball.
It all clicked, as the Twins got an eighth-inning, go-ahead single by Joe Mauer to edge Cleveland 3-2, giving them a modest three-game winning streak. They also won on Friday for the first time all season.
They played snappy defense, with second baseman Brian Dozier and shortstop Pedro Florimon looking like a slick up-the-middle pairing. Righthander Mike Pelfrey labored, throwing 113 pitches over 5⅔ innings but giving up just two runs. Trevor Plouffe tied the score with a two-run single in the sixth before Mauer’s heroics in the eighth in front of an announced crowd of 36,283 at Target Field.
“A very exciting win to start the second half,” manager Ron Gardenhire said, “and a huge crowd out there which really lifted up the guys.”
The eighth inning looked like another lost opportunity. Florimon singled and Dozier reached on an error. Gardenhire could have had Plouffe bunt but elected to having him swing away — and watched him hit into a double play.
“I second-guessed myself, too, when I saw that,” Gardenhire said.
That brought Mauer up against righthander Joe Smith. Indians manager Terry Francona had lefthander Rich Hill available but didn’t use him. Smith was supposed to pitch around Mauer, but got ahead 1-2 and decided to go for the strikeout. However, Smith left a pitch up and Mauer slapped it to center, scoring Florimon. Glen Perkins pitched a 1-2-3 ninth — getting a diving catch from Florimon for the first out — and earned his 22nd save.
“They went after Joe and, like he can do, he came up with a big one for us,” Gardenhire said.
Before the game, Gardenhire was asked about dealing with trade rumors as well as speculation about his job security. Pohlad was asked about a recent column suggesting the club should put Gardenhire “out of his misery” and fire him. Pohlad said any decision to replace managers would start with General Manager Terry Ryan and likely take place after the season.
“I’m not going to put Gardy out of his misery, “ Pohlad said. “I don’t think he’s miserable. He’s got a great job and we love him.”
The Twins want to prove they are better than their record. Winning Friday was one step.
“We haven’t gone out and pitched good and hit good at the same time,” Pelfrey said. “We’re going to have to find ways to do both. More than anything, the starting pitching. If we can consistently get through six innings and get it over to the bullpen, I think we will be a lot better off.”