CHICAGO – Randy Dobnak said he didn’t have a strike zone box to look through to see if some of the pitches he thought were good really deserved to be ruled balls.
Rocco Baldelli and Nelson Cruz didn’t need a box. They objected with conviction to home plate umpire Will Little that he was wrong a few times, to the point where both gentlemen were told to hit the showers in the middle of the seventh inning.
The Twins were a little hot Tuesday night as they fell 6-2 to the White Sox. They have dropped the first two games of a closely watched series between the top two teams in the AL Central Division. Television replays suggested that they might have had a beef with Little but, in the end, they knew they should have been screaming at themselves. Because this is their offense.
“I want to be clear on something, first and foremost,” said Baldelli, who was ejected for the third time in his career. “We didn’t lose tonight because of calls. We didn’t lose tonight because of anything that happened with any of the umpires. Yeah, there’s some frustration in certain instances, but we have to certainly go out and play better, have better at-bats, hit balls that are in the zone when we get the opportunity and pitch better and make more consistent quality pitches.
“It comes down to us needing to do a better job.”
For a second straight night, the Twins were outclassed by a red-hot White Sox team that is 22-5 over its past 27 games and now leads them by three games in the division. Rookie righthander Dane Dunning (2-0) pitched like a crafty veteran. The Twins bats, terrible in specialty situations Monday, were just terrible in general Tuesday. The offense that was 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position Monday mustered just four hits Tuesday and scored as many runs as they had ejections.
“They’re a really good team, but overall we’re going to be better,” Dobnak said of the White Sox. “I’m not sure who we have pitching tomorrow night, but they are going to go out there and do their thing and we are going to have better results.”
That person will be righthander Jake Odorizzi, who will come off the injured list and immediately be tasked with stopping the slide. Chicago now has evened the season series with the Twins at 4-4.
Dobnak (6-4) gave up four runs over 4⅓ innings on eight hits and a walk with four strikeouts. The man with the bowling ball sinker has given up nine earned runs over his past two starts.
He needed 31 pitches to get through the first inning, one in which White Sox hitters fouled off seven pitches. Eloy Jimenez’s opposite-field single drove in the first run.
Byron Buxton’s inside-the-park home run in the third — one night after he had one taken away from him when the ball was ruled to be out of play — tied the score. But Chicago scored three times in the third to take a 4-1 lead. Two runs scored when Luis Robert’s single to center got through a pulled-in infield.
Buxton scored on a groundout in the fifth — he was the offense on Tuesday — to make it 4-2. But Chicago put the game away with home runs by Tim Anderson and James McCann.
Baldelli didn’t believe the frustration Tuesday carried over from Monday.
“You generally get more frustrated with calls when you’re not playing up to your capabilities and expectations,” he said. “It’s on us to go out and play better and not have to rely on close calls to be the deciding factors in these games.”
The Twins have talked about prioritizing playoff readiness over throwing everything into repeating as division champions, based on the expanded playoff format. If they aren’t trying to make a big deal of winning the division, it sure looks that way after two games.