Paul Molitor is as even-tempered as a manager can be. He’s not a tantrum-thrower. But his angry eyes and his clipped tone after the Twins’ mistake-filled 5-2 loss to the White Sox on Wednesday revealed the truth more than any bombastic tirade could: He’s upset at how his team is playing.
“They’ve outplayed us,” Molitor said of the last-place White Sox, who have taken two of three games this week. “They’ve run aggressively, they’ve made more plays defensively. We had one good inning, in the first game yesterday.”
That about sums up an ugly night in which Hector Santiago — yes, that Hector Santiago — gave up two singles, four doubles and three walks in just five innings, and somehow still earned the victory when the Twins turned all that offense into a paltry two runs.
“Well, we helped him,” Molitor pointed out. “He gave us opportunities. He’s going to compete, I know him well enough to know that. We made him work, we just didn’t take advantage.”
The loss dropped the Twins five games out in the AL Central, and 9 1/2 games out of a wild-card spot.
Two mental mistakes stood out in this one, though Molitor was careful to note that those “two big plays [were] not the only things that kept us back.”
The first came in the second inning, when Robbie Grossman led off with a single, and Mitch Garver doubled him to third. Ehire Adrianza followed by crushing a Santiago fastball off the center field wall — but Garver, believing the ball might be caught despite how shallow center fielder Adam Engel was playing, loitered around second base until it bounced off the fence, too late to score.
“Not a good read,” Molitor grumbled. “Second day in a row that we didn’t score on a double from second base.”
Making matters worse, he had to hold his position on a ground out to third, than was caught in a rundown when Santiago snagged Brian Dozier’s one-hopper to the mound. “Situational hitting, you get a couple of ground balls but don’t score,” Molitor said. “Those are huge runs early. A chance maybe to knock a pitcher out of the game.”
The other critical play cost Jake Odorizzi a chance to pitch deeper into the game, and eventually tagged him with a hard-luck loss. Odorizzi allowed a leadoff single to Yolmer Sanchez in the sixth inning, but seemed to snuff that threat when Jose Abreu reached for a two-strike slider well out of the strike zone and poked it toward shortstop.
One problem: Adrianza was shifted deep into the hole at short. By the time he reached the ball, the double play was no longer possible, and Adrianza simply held the ball. With Odorizzi at 99 pitches at that point, Molitor removed him from the game, and the inning blew up into a four-run uprising that would up sticking the Twins with a second straight loss.
“I automatically thought it was a double play. It’s a soft-hit ball right toward the shortstop, and we were shifted in the hole,” Odorizzi said. “In that situation, there just has to be a double play. It changes everything from that point on, obviously.”
Odorizzi took part of the blame, saying he should be more aware if the shift is that extreme, and try to pitch to it. But Molitor shared his frustration that the play ignited the White Sox.
“You would think he would get an out on that ball. I don’t know if he peeked, or wasn’t sure if he wanted to go to second or first,” the manager said. “I know live, it looked like a ball we should have got an out on.”
Instead, Ryan Pressly gave up back-to-back singles, threw a wild pitch to score another run, and didn’t keep Tim Anderson from stealing third, setting up a terrific squeeze bunt by Engel. Game over.
There were more mistakes, including a dropped fly ball by Eddie Rosario, and a throw to the wrong base to allow runners to move up.
“I try to be positive most times,” Molitor said, “but that’s just not good baseball.”