The standings say the Twins merely went from 52-46 to 52-47 last night, which is not good but still must be a relief to the local team. They are still in the second Wild Card spot by two games. They are assured of being a playoff team at the 100-game mark of this season, something aided by the mediocrity of the second-tier of the American League but still something that would have been highly unlikely when the year started.
All that said, some losses have the potential to hurt more than others. I say “potential” because sometimes we have a tendency to overrate momentum, particularly in baseball. The Twins could go out and win 8-1 this afternoon, quickly erasing the lingering aftertaste from Tuesday’s 8-7 loss.
Their resiliency will be tested in the wake of a game that the Twins lost not once, not twice, but three times.
They lost it in the middle innings when they couldn’t do more damage against shaky Pittsburgh starter Charlie Morton and then gift-wrapped a two-run fifth that tied the game 2-2.
They lost it in the eighth, when Casey Fien and Brian Duensing (particularly the latter, who gave up a walk and three-run double to two lefties who struggle mightily against lefties) unraveled as the Pirates took a 7-3 lead.
And they lost it again in the ninth when closer Glen Perkins had another rough outing, giving up a long home run right after the Twins had improbably rallied with four runs of their own in the bottom of the eighth.
Minnesota’s bullpen ERA swelled to 4.01 in the loss, down to 24th in MLB. Twins relievers have 200 strikeouts — dead last in the majors, and 41 fewer than the next-lowest team. The bullpen’s struggles had been masked in part by Perkins’ brilliance before the All-Star break, but his recent struggles (two blown saves and last night’s loss) have accentuated the problem.
A bad bullpen sets a team up for crushing defeats — and nights like Tuesday, where one loss feels like so much more.