CHICAGO – The Twins have made it almost an art form: A mistake pitch drifts into the strike zone, a hometown player hungrily launches his bat at the philanthropy, and the ball comes down in an adjacent ZIP code.
They have lost 17 of their 27 games this season, and nearly one-fourth of them — or worse, 40 percent of their 10 road losses — have been accompanied with this most painful form of defeat.
On Thursday, it was Trayce Thompson, scion of that famous Minnesota family of Thompsons, doing the damage. The son of Gophers basketball great Mychal and the brother of NBA All-Star Klay, Trayce blasted a thigh-high Addison Reed fastball into the White Sox bullpen, handing the Twins their 12th loss in the past 14 games, 6-5 at Guaranteed Rate Field.
It was the fourth walkoff home run given up by the Twins in the season’s first six weeks, and it capped Chicago’s comeback from an early 5-1 deficit.
“Add it to the list of [losses] that have been tough to swallow,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “You try to begin to find a way to dig yourself out of the hole that we’ve created, and [when] you get a lead like that, you want to win those games.”
The Twins would like to win any game, any way, right about now. Thursday, facing an opponent with even fewer victories than they had, their pitching wasn’t good enough, their offense went into hibernation after an early flourish, and their defense … well, let’s just say that Byron Buxton’s Platinum Glove absence is beginning to stick out.
Chicago scored a pair of unearned runs, one coming after shortstop Gregorio Petit couldn’t hold on to Jason Castro’s throw on an Adam Engel steal attempt in the second inning, moving him into position to score on a Yomer Sanchez groundout.
The other came on Jake Odorizzi’s final pitch of the night, a ringing Matt Davidson double off the right field wall that Robbie Grossman, who is getting plenty of extra outfield assignments in Buxton’s absence, mistakenly tried to catch — “I was about one step short,” he said — and then couldn’t pick up the ricochet on the first try, allowing Jose Abreu to score from first base.
“I was just trying to grab the ball,” Grossman said. “And I managed to miss it.”
Not of it would have mattered had the Twins kept scoring after erupting for five runs off Chicago starter Reynaldo Lopez, highlighted by a Logan Morrison double in the third inning and a two-run Morrison homer in the fourth. But once Lopez quelled that uprising, White Sox pitching was brilliant: The Twins didn’t move a baserunner past first base in the final five innings.
That spelled their doom via the night’s biggest mistake — a home run, but not the one you’re thinking of.
At least, that’s Odorizzi’s memory of it. He struck out a season-high eight, but believes he made an even bigger mistake than Reed. Though he didn’t catch the name of the bus who ran him over.
“The game kind of boiled down to one pitch and it was a home run to …” Odorizzi said, clearly not familiar with Daniel Palka’s work. “In the fourth inning, it’s 5-1 at that point, [and] anything less than a home run, we keep the momentum. We just took that lead, and to give it back and make it a two-run deficit instead of four is a huge difference.”
Odorizzi might not know Palka, but plenty of his teammates do. The White Sox rookie was a Twins prospect until a roster crunch forced them to waive him last November. It didn’t take long for that transaction to haunt them, and Odorizzi.
“I take pride in keeping a lead. To give it back twice, it’s the most frustrated I’ve been from a pitching standpoint,” said Odorizzi, who gave up five runs, including both batters he walked. “You’re supposed to keep the lead and I didn’t do my job.”
Reed, who also gave up a walkoff blast to the Rays’ Carlos Gomez on the Twins’ last road trip, blames himself.
“Just trying to stay on the outer third, and it tailed back in to the inner third,” Reed said. “He did what you’re supposed to do with a good pitch to hit.”