The Twins should be pleased that they finished with a winning homestand, only their second of the year and first since their season-opening three-game sweep of Kansas City.
But they aren’t proud of their last two games against a Baltimore team with the worst ERA in the American League. That included Sunday’s 11-5 defeat as Kyle Gibson fell apart — twice in one game — and the offense stopped being a threat after the second inning.
The Twins went 4-3 at Target Field this past week but failed to enter the All-Star break with any momentum. Perhaps the break comes at the right time for a team that has completed a stretch of 21 games in 20 days and will visit the AL’s best team, the Houston Astros, once the break is over.
“Our record, with the last couple of losses, is a little disappointing of a way to go into the break,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “I think there were times where we could have spurted a little bit, take advantage of momentum and some things we were doing pretty well.
“That being said, if you look back at the beginning — to be where we are — that would be encouraging.”
At 45-43, the Twins reach the All-Star break a competitive, yet flawed, team with a young core that has upside. It was all on display at Target Field.
Gibson was once projected to be a stalwart in the rotation, but he finds himself on the back end of the starting five because of games like Sunday. He walked the first batter of the game, Seth Smith, on four pitches. Three batters later, Adam Jones belted a three-run homer estimated at 444 feet, giving Baltimore a 3-0 lead.
The Orioles pushed the score to 5-0 in the second when Caleb Joseph, at the end of a 12-pitch at bat, hit an RBI double and then scored on Smith’s single.
“Against teams like that, who are swinging the bat well and have a lot of good hitters,” Gibson said, “you have to locate a little better in the zone.”
Orioles righthander Ubaldo Jimenez loaded the bases in the second with a hit batter and two walks. Brian Dozier walked to force in a run, Robbie Grossman hit a two-run single and Max Kepler hit a RBI double to right.
The Twins were within 5-4, and it looked like they had the Orioles right where they wanted them, after rallying from six-run and five-run deficits to beat them earlier this season. But Jimenez stopped walking or hitting Twins batters. He ended up pitching five innings, giving up four runs, four hits and four walks.
Gibson posted scoreless innings in the third and fourth, but he gave up another home run to Jones in the fifth then a single to Mark Trumbo before he was pulled. In four-plus innings, Gibson was charged with seven earned runs. Baltimore scored four runs in the fifth to take a 9-4 lead before adding two in the eighth.
“We have been back and forth on Kyle, good days, bad days,” Molitor said. “I thought the leadoff walks really hurt him.”
Most Twins players and coaches scattered after the game for four days off before they reconvene in Texas on Friday. Molitor hoped they take their mind off the game while away — but regain their focus to take on an Astros team that demolished the Twins in three games at Target Field in May and beat Toronto 19-1 on Sunday for their 60th victory of the season.
The Twins gave up at least 10 runs for the 12th time in 88 games.
“We all know we have a tough opponent right out of the gate,” Molitor said. “They kind of put an exclamation point on their first half [Sunday]. I saw they missed an extra point or something.”