Lots of weird bounces Friday night, and none of them helpful to the Twins. There was a violent bounce — Chris Parmelee colliding with the Mariners catcher. There was an unlucky bounce — Pedro Florimon’s two-out double ricocheting into the stands. And there was a so-so bounce-back — Mike Pelfrey’s gratingly slow return to form after elbow surgery.
If you’re keeping score, the Twins were 0-for-3 on important bounces, and not entirely coincidentally, 3-0 losers in the final score to Seattle at Target Field.
“I’m a firm believer that you get out of this what you put into it,” Pelfrey said after pitching five shutout innings, then surrendering the decisive runs in one five-batter span. “I’m pretty confident this is going to turn around.”
He hopes to someday pitch, in other words, like Hisashi Iwakuma, who now has pitched 20⅔ innings against the Twins in his career without giving up an earned run. The Mariners’ “other” ace improved to 6-1 with a 2.13 ERA — that’s a better start than Felix Hernandez’s 6-4, 2.38 stats — by sinking pitch after pitch under the Twins’ bats.
“His ball disappears,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “It was moving all over the place.”
So was Parmelee, who might want to consider shoulder pads and a helmet if he’s going to keep playing this way. Two nights after going headfirst down some camera-well stairs to make a catch, the right fielder collided with Target Field’s moderately padded wall in making a run-saving catch of a Jason Bay fly ball in the fifth inning.
“That wall’s not moving,” the Twins strong-side linebacker said.
That was an encore impact, though; the hard stuff came in the third inning, after he connected with a Iwakuma fastball and knocked it off the left-field wall. After a Pedro Florimon single — one of three hits by the shortstop on the night — moved him to third, Gardenhire signaled for a hit-and-run in hopes of avoiding a double play. With Florimon moving, Jamey Carroll chopped the ball to the right side of the pitcher’s mound. Parmelee hesitated.
“He just didn’t go. Parmelee’s got to be [going on] contact at third base,” Gardenhire said. “I think he froze because he thought it was back to the pitcher, but he’s got to be going. That’s why we put it on, to push the issue against [Iwakuma].”
Actually, Parmelee believed the Mariners would try to turn a double play. But Seattle shortstop Brendan Ryan came all the way behind the mound to field the ball, then fired it home, well ahead of Parmelee’s arrival.
“I was a hair late leaving, and [catcher Jesus Sucre] was blocking most of the plate. I was going to slide, and then I saw him just standing right in front of home plate,” Parmelee said. “A 0-0 ballgame, I’ve got to make something happen.”
Iwakuma dodged another Twins rally in the fifth; with two out and Parmelee on first, Florimon lifted a high line drive down the left-field line. It bounced just in front of a diving Bay, but then hopped over the left-field wall. By rule, Parmelee could only advance two bases. The rally ended when Carroll grounded to Iwakuma.
That was it for the Twins offense, and once Kendrys Morales pounded a Pelfrey sinker 415 feet into the Mariners bullpen, giving Seattle a 2-0 lead, that was it for the Twins.
It was another ragged, uneven start for Pelfrey, encouraging at times, demoralizing at others. Two months into his return from elbow reconstruction, Pelfrey is 3-6 with a 6.66 ERA, and tired of waiting for his effectiveness to return.
“My command wasn’t very good at all tonight. I didn’t really have a very good idea where it was going,” Pelfrey said. “... But this is going to turn. I’ve gone through extremely bad stretches throughout my career. I feel there is progress being made — not as fast as I’d like, but there is progress.”