The Twins beat the rain on Wednesday. If MLB has a heart, they should be allowed to count that victory in the standings.
Weather aside, though, Minnesota suffered the same steady drizzle of subpar pitching and ineffectual hitting they’ve endured for six weeks. Baltimore hit four home runs, allowed only three Twins to reach third base and left town with the easiest sweep the Orioles will collect all season, a two-gamer capped by a 9-2 victory at Target Field.
“There’s a lot of guys in this league that could have hit those pitches out I was throwing [Wednesday],” admitted starter Phil Hughes, who at 1-6 became the first six-game loser in the majors this year. “They have a big lineup that can hurt you with one swing, but [today] it was an issue of too many balls that were not my best stuff, out over the plate.”
The Twins dropped their seventh consecutive game and 11th in their past 12 to fall to 8-25 for the season — a 39-win (and 123-loss) pace that represents the worst start in franchise history. So maybe it’s no surprise that the most alarming characteristic of the game was its ordinariness, the sense of routine noncompetitiveness that pervaded the ballpark as the Twins’ deficit grew and grew.
“They had a lot of offense these past two games,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “We just couldn’t contain them.”
The teams, rained out on Monday and eager to avoid having to reschedule another game, worried about getting the game in with more wet weather approaching, and a couple of innings were played in a soggy shower. The heavier rains didn’t arrive until the matinee crowd of 25,094 had left the stadium, but the Twins’ play matched the bleak weather all day, thanks to Hughes’ third consecutive worrisome start.
The righthander surrendered a two-run homer to Mark Trumbo in the second inning, and back-to-back tape-measure jobs in the fourth to Chris Davis — who rocketed a two-run blast onto the right-field plaza — and Trumbo again. It was the third consecutive game the Orioles have hit consecutive home runs.
“That’s kind of their mode of offense. They don’t bunt and they don’t steal — they hit the ball over the fence,” Molitor said. “That’s one thing Phil’s been battling, keeping the ball in the park a little better. So it wasn’t a particularly good day for him, or us.”
Hughes, once the most reliable of Twins starters, hasn’t had a good day for a few weeks. He’s allowed 15 runs in 11 innings over his past three starts, and his ERA has ballooned to 6.44.
“It’s been a miserable three starts. I’m missing over the plate a lot, losing my identity as a pitcher a little bit,” Hughes said. “I take a lot of pride in being aggressive and attacking the zone, and I feel like I’m being tentative right now. Not really attacking with my best stuff.”
The Twins offense isn’t either, not lately. Minnesota scored twice off Orioles righthander Tyler Wilson, with Miguel Sano contributing his fourth home run of the season, a solo shot into the bullpens in the second inning. The other run came in the fifth, when Eddie Rosario led off with a double and Danny Santana singled him home.
The Twins have been outscored 56-20 during this seven-game skid, and have allowed at least nine runs four times in the past two weeks.
“I’m struggling big-time, and we have to figure it out,” Hughes said.
He could be speaking for the entire team.