When the trade deadline passed Wednesday afternoon, there was supposed to be palpable relief in the Twins clubhouse, a renewed energy now that everyone knew what uniform they would be wearing.
But it sure didn’t look like anyone was having much fun.
The Twins, their roster still intact when baseball’s midseason bazaar mostly fizzled, failed at the plate — and in the field once, too — in critical moments, finally handing Kansas City its eighth consecutive victory, 4-3 at Target Field.
The Twins loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth inning, put three of their first four hitters aboard in the eighth, and came away with only one run each time, dooming Minnesota to its third loss in a row.
“We left a lot of people out there,” manager Ron Gardenhire said of the Twins’ 11 runners left on base. “A lot of strikeouts again. We need to put the ball in play.”
Proof of that hypothesis came on a ball that the Royals put in play, a routine grounder that ended up providing Kansas City with its tiebreaking run. After Alex Gordon smashed a two-out triple off Caleb Thielbar in the seventh inning, Eric Hosmer dribbled a ball up the middle. Pedro Florimon got to the ball, put his glove on it — and dropped it. Gordon scored, and the Twins never caught up again.
“I was [going] pretty quick on that play. I tried to catch it,” Florimon said of his 10th error of the season. “I know I have to make that play.”
Especially since the Twins are in a run-scoring drought. They’ve now gone 67 consecutive innings without scoring more than two runs at a time, and they’ve managed only 18 runs in their past six games. It looked several times like they might change things, only to have matters peter out at the end. You know, like every trade rumor of the past week.
Even when the Twins did manage to push a couple of runs across, the inning was mostly bathed in frustration. Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Ryan Doumit each lined sharp singles to open the sixth, for instance, loading the bases with no outs. But what happened next symbolized the Twins’ recent scoring futility: Trevor Plouffe grounded into a force play on the first pitch, with Mauer forced out at home. Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie walked Chris Herrmann on four pitches, handing the Twins a run without swinging the bat. Then Aaron Hicks, mired in a 2-for-20 slump over his past six games, popped to second. And Florimon — who launched a 400-foot solo home run on his previous at-bat in the fifth — ended the inning by striking out on three pitches, swinging over the top of a 95-mph fastball to strand three.
The Twins got the tying run to third base with one out in the eighth, too, but Chris Colabello and Clete Thomas both swung at third-strike pitches that didn’t appear to be in the strike zone. And when Mauer reached second base in the ninth with one out, Morneau and Doumit whiffed, too, also on borderline pitches.
Good, aggressive swings?
“No, not when they’re bouncing,” Gardenhire said. “Be aggressive, yes, but the ball needs to be in the zone a little bit. I thought we got anxious there a couple of times.”
See? All the anxiety was supposed to be gone after the trade deadline. But not for the Twins.