MILWAUKEE – The Twins lost a game on Tuesday night at Miller Park based on the least of their problems: The work of the back end of the bullpen trio of Tyler Duffey, Trevor May and Taylor Rogers.
Duffey pitched the seventh and remained unscored on in seven outings. Surrounding that, May gave up a game-tying two-run home run (4-4) in the sixth, and Rogers gave up a game-losing two-run home run (6-4) to Jedd Gyorko in the eighth.
Such things happen.
May had been throwing better than ever, Duffey has been a phenomenon since mid-May 2019, and Rogers -- whine if you must, cite his stats in back-to-back games, but I’ll take the lefthander any time to finish a ballgame.
An additional note on Duffey, as a phenomenon: Since mid-July last season, he now has been scored on once in 34 appearances, and that was two runs to Kansas City on the last Saturday of the 2019 season.
Tuesday's misdeeds from two terrific bullpen arms, May’s and Rogers’, took the attention away from a major problem this team continues to demonstrate: They can’t add runs and put away opponents.
And, yes, 18 games is a short sample, but in what will be a 60-game season if a team is lucky, all that will be available are short samples.
The Twins were leading 4-1 in the fourth with runners on first and third and two outs when Alex Claudio struck out Nelson Cruz. The Twins were leading 4-2 in the sixth when Sano and Byron Buxton led off with singles.
Then, Max Kepler was called out on a non-strike evaluated by Jerry Meals, who is unjustly overlooked too often in the debate as to the worst ball-and-strike umpire in the big leagues. Jorge Polanco then wrapped into a double play.
Once again, the Twins went away in a rash of nothingness, three runs in the first three innings and zip after that.
The mid-game failure also brought back an old theory: You can’t afford to waste a Sano single. This was his first of the season, coming after two doubles and three home runs on the way to his current batting average of .125.
That would the worst on the team, if it wasn’t for the woes of catcher Mitch Garver, the slugging revelation of 2019 and now being deprived of delicious fastballs on the inner two-thirds of the plate.
Garver is batting .111 and has 18 strikeouts in 36 at-bats. Since he plays less than Sano, the strikeout competition will have to be settled by percentage. Garver is now whiffing at a .500 rate in his at-bats, meaning – with 25 out of 48 – Sano has him by a tiche at .521.
Admittedly, the Twins were impressive in striking out while compiling a major league record for home runs – 23 percent of their at-bats were Ks – but they have upped that to 27.5 percent in 2020. They also are batting .232 as a team, compared to .270 in 2019.
Yah, we get it. Short sample.
The shortest sample of all has been Josh Donaldson, the acquisition for third base and paid handsomely to make this lineup EVEN better. He played in seven games, left with an aching right calf, which is an injury as familiar to him as a bad back and neck has become for Eldrick Woods.
The Twins may wind up getting nothing from the first installment (reduced greatly by the mini-season) on Donaldson and hope for his presence next season, when the slugger now bringing teardrops will have turned 35.
There was a strong indication of a Twins’ growing pessimism over Donaldson’s return with the purchase of infielder Ildemaro Vargas from Arizona on Tuesday. Manager Rocco Baldelli said on his pregame Zoom-cast before Game 2 in Milwaukee the Vargas’ acquisition had little to do with Donaldson’s injury situation – that he was a 29-year-old, switch-hitting, not-playing-much infielder that the Twins liked quite a bit.
And we in the media all like Rocco quite a bit, because he’s such an affable fellow, even when he’s fibbing to us through his COVID mask. (Hint: Good word that “fibbing’’ .. causes many fewer problems than “lying.’’)
Of course, there’s also the possibility Rocco was being Boy Scout-honest here, and the Twins felt that one switch-hitting infielder with modest credentials and a tough to pronounce first name for us fellows from Murray County wasn’t enough in Ehire Adrianza, and they had to have another.
The one true error Baldelli made Tuesday was mentioning the Twins had received a strong recommendation from another switch-hitting D-Backs' infielder on Vargas being a fine gentleman.
That player was Eduardo Escobar, and Rocco, in the name of all that is sacred in Twins’ promotion, never go out of your way to remind team followers that your bosses traded the wonderful Eddie Escobar for no good reason, only to see him sign for cheap in Arizona.
Rocco, in the name of Falvey, and LEVINE!, don't inspire us to recall the current third base gap should be filled with Eddie Escobar – struggling a bit right now, but coming off 118 RBI in 2019 for the D-Backs at a salary of $6.17 million.