CHICAGO – An ancient proverb says success has many fathers but failure is an orphan. That doesn’t seem to apply in the Twins clubhouse.
The real competition on Saturday didn’t begin until after Twins blew a four-run lead and lost to the White Sox 5-4, when one player after another stepped up to claim the blame. This was a loss borne of many mistakes, and then many mea culpas. Choose your favorite culprit:
• Mike Pelfrey, handed a 4-0 cushion in his first start since May 1, gave it all back before he retired 10 hitters: “Knowing how good [White Sox starter Jeff Samardzija] is, to give that back is disappointing. … I wasn’t able to hold it, and that’s frustrating.”
• Danny Santana, whose throw to first base on what should have been an inning-ending groundout sailed high, igniting an eighth-inning Chicago rally that broke the 4-4 tie: “I’m mad, because in that situation, I need to make a play.”
• Blaine Boyer, who allowed Santana’s misplay to turn into the winning run by surrendering a double to Conor Gillaspie and a single to pinch hitter J.B. Shuck: “I felt confident if I go low and away [to Shuck], we’ll get him to roll it over. But [the fastball] was up. That’s all on me. This loss is 100 percent on me.”
Suffice it to say, all the Twins care about is that what started out as a momentum-building day, after the relief of finally winning a game the day before, ended up as another doubt-building loss. To wit: Will Pelfrey ever be consistently effective? Will the Twins defense ever stop sabotaging their pitching staff? Is the bullpen really up to this?
“Some good, some bad,” manager Paul Molitor said. “The frustrating part of today is, you get four runs off a good pitcher and are not able to add on. … When you’re beating a good pitcher, you hope you find a way to win.”
That’s their hope for Pelfrey, too, but his return from elbow surgery offered as many conflicting clues as ever.
The 32-year-old righthander looked great at the beginning and end of his stint, needing only seven pitches to dispatch the White Sox in the first inning while displaying a 95-mph sinker, then retiring the last six hitters he faced. But Adam LaRoche smashed one of those fastballs into the center-field seats in the second inning, and Pelfrey suddenly degenerated into the slow-working, plate-nibbling pitcher whom the Twins have tried to solve for more than two years.
He gave up three more hits and a run in the second inning, loaded the bases on a single, hit batter and walk in the third, and surrendered another solo home run, this one by Geovany Soto in the fourth.
But Pelfrey was unlucky, too; the White Sox scored a run in the third when Avisail Garcia hit a potential double-play ball to the mound, but it deflected off Pelfrey’s glove for an infield RBI single.
“It wasn’t smooth,” Molitor said. “… We got five innings out of him, but it was a day he had to battle every at-bat, every pitch.”
Samardzija had to battle, too — for a while. Trevor Plouffe led off the second inning with a double, scored on Chris Herrmann’s first career triple, and Shane Robinson, Danny Santana and Brian Dozier all followed with run-scoring hits. But the Twins only got two more hits the rest of the day, none after the fourth inning, and never seriously threatened to score again.
Chicago didn’t either after Soto’s home run — until Santana’s bad throw opened a door. “He made a nice play on a tough little backhanded hop. When you’re trying to make a play against speed, sometimes you have a tendency to rush a little bit,” Molitor said.
“If it’s a good throw, Ramirez is out probably by a good step. … But it’s a misplay. A good play, but a misplay.”