CLEVELAND – Max Kepler hadn’t homered since the last time the Twins were here, a drought of 25 games and 97 at-bats, so you can just imagine what a relief it was for him to slug a Corey Kluber fastball over the center field wall in the third inning Wednesday, can’t you?
You imagined wrong.
“I’ll be relieved when we get a win,” Kepler grumbled after the Twins staggered to their 13th consecutive loss, 8-4 to the Indians at Progressive Field. “[It doesn’t matter] when one guy hits a homer. I just want a win.”
There’s a lot of that going around an increasingly acrid Twins clubhouse, where the suffering now increases exponentially with each lurch toward a poisonous franchise record. The Twins, who closed August with a dismal 9-19 record that incredibly is still better than April (7-17) or May (8-19), could equal the 14 consecutive games of misery endured by their 1982 counterparts Thursday night at Target Field, where they open a 10-game homestand that feels more like an extended memorial service.
“It’s been a long week. We need to find a way to win a game, just to lighten the load. It’s getting heavy,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “Guys are getting on the edge a little bit, you can feel it. It’s building.”
Players eat in silence after games, hold whispered conversations, look like they haven’t slept. The music system that used to boom techno tunes for dance parties isn’t powered up, since anything it played would sound like a dirge. It’s now been two solid weeks without a victory, and misery is everywhere.
“It’s tough. This is the first time I’ve ever experienced it,” Kepler said, gesturing around the mausoleum-like clubhouse. “It’s not easy, mentally or physically. On any of us — the pitching staff, the hitters, the coaches.”
Even the offensive hero. Brian Dozier connected on a 95-mile-per-hour fastball in the eighth inning, blasting it into the left-center bleachers and notching himself even higher in Twins’ home run history. It was his 13th home run of the month, a milestone that hadn’t been achieved by a Twin in 52 seasons, since Harmon Killebrew’s 14-homer July of 1964. And it was his 32nd of the season, making him only the 11th Twin ever to belt that many.
And to Dozier, it meant … not much at all.
“Same as last night,” Dozier said. “It’s just another loss.”
Pat Dean tried to perform a miracle by outpitching Corey Kluber, the former Cy Young Award winner who has not absorbed a loss since July 3. Dean was game for a while, pitching out of a three-hit jam in the second inning and arriving in the fifth trailing only 2-1. But a leadoff home run by catcher Roberto Perez triggered a bout of wildness, and Dean was removed after three consecutive hitters reached base against him, two via walk.
With the bullpen overworked, Molitor summoned rookie J.T. Chargois, and Cleveland greeted him with an RBI single by Carlos Santana and a two-run double by Jose Ramirez. Chargois gave up a sacrifice fly and issued two walks before the inning, and essentially the Twins’ chances finally ended.
“Just extra bases and extra opportunities. Next thing you know, you’ve got a good game that turns lopsided,” Molitor said, his team’s 0-6 road trip mercifully over. “We played better here [than in Toronto]. We were a little cleaner. Some of the guys, offensively, showed signs of life. But it’s still difficult.”