CHICAGO – Bad luck comes in threes, or so the Twins surely believe this season. As agonizing as their fate seems sometimes, they just can’t stop tripling their misery.
Minnesota’s threadbare lineup eked out only one run Sunday, and the White Sox finished their second sweep of the Twins, winning 3-1 at U.S. Cellular Field. The Twins have lost all three games of a series an astonishing six times already, or one more three-game sweep than they suffered during all of 2015.
“We’ve got injuries, but we’re not playing good baseball,” Trevor Plouffe said after the Twins wrapped up a dismal 1-5 road trip. “I think we will turn it around. I thought we made some strides, but we’re back to playing poor baseball.”
And lots of it, too. Minnesota, its 8-23 record tied for the worst start in franchise history, lost for the ninth time in 10 games, dropped to 2-15 on the road, and now straggles home to Target Field — where the Twins will meet first-place Baltimore, which swept them last month. They’re 1-6 in May — and yet that’s still better than the 0-9 debut they made in April.
Twins manager Paul Molitor decided to give Brian Dozier’s sore hamstring another day to recover, Kurt Suzuki’s whiplashed neck a day to heal and Joe Mauer’s long-planned day off a chance to become reality. Maybe it’s good strategic thinking to value their long-term health over short-term need, but the absence of those three players, plus Eduardo Escobar’s presence on the disabled list, gave the Twins lineup a spring training road trip look.
And White Sox starter Jose Quintana took advantage.
“The lineup was a little thin today, you can say that,” Molitor said of his team, which collected six singles and a double, “but we couldn’t find ways to do much.”
They managed to push across one run, turning a pair of singles and a groundout into a 1-0 lead, but it didn’t last long. It never does: The Twins have trailed at some point in 30 of their 31 games.
And as has become their habit, they sabotaged their own offense with mistakes. The most glaring one Sunday was committed only three batters into the game, after Eduardo Nunez’s leadoff double and Jorge Polanco’s walk. When Miguel Sano followed with a sinking line drive to center, Nunez rushed to third base and headed home, oblivious to Austin Jackson’s running catch in center. He was across the diamond, helplessly watching, as the White Sox doubled him up.
“It was not a good play,” Molitor said. “He knows. You’ve got to know where the outfielders are playing, and understand that with no outs, scoring is not the priority, it’s only getting to third base.”
The mistake killed the rally, and set the tone for another loss.
“We’ve been talking about it all week: Things get magnified when you’re struggling,” Molitor said.
Even Tyler Duffey, who in some ways outpitched Quintana — he struck out a career-high nine, and held the White Sox to six hits — learned the hard way.
“He threw close to 100 pitches , and made maybe three or four mistakes — and they cost us,” Molitor said.
For instance? Well, a leadoff walk to Adam Eaton in the third inning enabled a ground-ball single and a groundout to produce a Chicago run. Or a third strike that bounced on the plate in the seventh inning enabled Avisail Garcia to reach base, where he scored on a double.
“Little things,” Molitor said. “You lose a 3-1 game, those are things you point to.”
By now, he’s had plenty of practice.