The Twins lost three games in two days last weekend in Detroit as their featured failure in a six-game losing streak. One of the scheduled games was carried over to Minneapolis, and will be made up as a doubleheader of seven-inning games starting at 1:10 p.m. on Friday.
A year ago, the Twins won 101 games, the Tigers lost 114 games, and there were our heroes, a season later in mid-pandemic, being outplayed emphatically in three games by Ron Gardenhire’s plucky Tabbies.
As has been pointed out, this was not your average six-game losing streak. In normal times, a team combining pathetic hitting with erratic pitching to lose six in a row would be wasting 3.7 percent of its schedule. In the mini-season of 2020, the Twins embarrassed themselves for 10 percent of the schedule.
Here’s what was frightful:
In the view of this veteran scribe, the least worrisome part of this team when the season finally started in late July were the three peak arms in the bullpen – Trevor May, Tyler Duffey and closer Taylor Rogers.
Amidst the losing streak, Duffey finally wavered, May ran into the long ball, and Rogers … well, something’s going on with the lefty that’s beyond bad luck.
What with 10 percent of the 60-game schedule frittered away, the Twins were in need of a show of competence simply to remain viable to be one of the two automatic qualifiers from the Central for the AL’s eight-team postseason tournament.
Which made the past two nights in Target Field somewhat reassuring:
• Michael Pineda returned from the absurdly long suspension* that he received last September for the use of a masking agent and went six innings against the loaded White Sox lineup on Tuesday.
One intricacy Ron Gardenhire had made us aware during his 13 seasons as Twins manager was to monitor how the ball was “coming out of the pitcher’s hand.’’ After a shaky first, I thought it was excellent for Pineda – that Big Mike was throwing the “fire out of the ball,’’ in a breaking ball sense.
(*Pineda had 36 games remaining on his suspension that started in 2019 and was made to serve it all, meaning he missed 60 percent of the pandemic schedule rather than the original 22 percent of a 162-game schedule. Thus, he also missed nearly three times as much of his daily salary as he would have lost in a full season. Definitely absurd.)
With manager Rocco Baldelli avoiding May, Duffey and Rogers due to previous use, the Twins needed Caleb Thielbar, Sergio Romo and Matt Wisler to get the last nine outs and a 3-2 victory.
Thielbar got Tuesday’s win, something the Randolph [Minn.] Rocket had gained in the big leagues as recently as May 5, 2014.
• On Wednesday, the Twins received another six hopeful innings – this time from Jose Berrios. He wasn’t great, but as with Pineda, the breaking ball was very good, and one run in six innings … you gotta take that.
Berrios has been excellent or good enough in two of his past three starts, and there’s nothing more important to the Twins, now and perhaps in October, than for Berrios to again start resembling the “Staff Ace,'' -- coveted by every ballclub since the National League was formed in 1876.
Now, comes the real question:
Starting Friday, the Twins have five games in four days vs. the Tigers over the long holiday weekend, and can they avoid being outclassed again by Gardy’s plucky lads, who certainly have made up that 53½-game talent deficit against Rocco's Bumba Squad in a hurry.
(Bumba: novel word in UK to denote surprise, and I needed something smart-alecky.)
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1. Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash getting a suspension when his players were the ones being thrown at by the Yankees, and for postgame words that were merely a hint at retaliation and not a specific threat … that’s 100 percent asinine, which can be expected from an asinine Commissioner’s Office.
2. Kirk Cousins and his thoughts on COVID masks … I don’t care at all; basically, it’s just him being annoying, which is a strength for him.
I think Cousins is good enough for a strong team to win, which the 2020 Vikings will be if the season is played out, but if I was a fan, he would be the hardest starting quarterback to embrace as a personality since Jeff George.
In fact, Cousins is George, although perhaps not as likely to ignore a fumbled football wobbling near his feet.