Matt Shoemaker left Saturday's 11-3 loss to Kansas City feeling like that was the worst start of his career.
And the numbers, as they often do, backed him up, proving the nine runs he allowed were a career high, with his eight earned runs matching his highest total from back in 2014. Shoemaker now holds a 1-3 record and 7.83 ERA.
"I hate talking about luck, but it would be nice," Shoemaker said. "… It's really frustrating, to say the least, when for whatever reason, throughout my career, I think all but one season, I just get off to a really slow start to the season and then just can't get it going. I don't know why that is."
Shoemaker kept repeating self-affirmations after the game, peppering in mantras such as "keep fighting" and "work hard" and "turn this thing around" while clearly showing how baffled he really was by his and the team's lackluster showing in 2021.
The Twins failed to match their longest win streak of the season at three, dropping to 9-16 and making Friday's eight-run win against the American League Central Division leaders look like a fluke. And Shoemaker's disastrous outing, including allowing two home runs, from Salvador Perez and Ryan O'Hearn, looked even starker compared to what KC's starter was offering.
Danny Duffy (4-1) has a 0.60 ERA after Saturday, when he lasted seven innings and allowed just two hits, one earned run from Alex
Kirilloff's third homer of the series and three walks while striking out seven.
Jorge Polanco managed one ground-ball single in the first inning before Duffy retired 12 consecutive batters and kept another hit from the board until Kirilloff's seventh-inning score. Meanwhile the Royals had to endure only one hitless inning the entire game.
Perez' RBI double in the first paired with Jorge Soler's sacrifice fly put the Royals up early. Perez then hit his home run off Shoemaker in the third inning before Shoemaker gave up his second to O'Hearn an inning later. Whit Merrifield's three-RBI double at the top of the fourth ended Shoemaker's day after 3 ⅓ innings.
Reliever Cody Stashak then allowed Merrifield to score from Carlos Santana's ground out before Randy Dobnak let Andrew Benintendi jog around the bases on just his third pitch, up 0-2 in the count. Benintendi nicked another solo shot off Dobnak in the eighth inning.
When Duffy finally exited the game for Jake Brentz, the Twins managed some late-game face-saving from Nelson Cruz' two-RBI, 439-foot home run in the eighth.
"We have to continue to compete as these games go on, regardless of what's going on in the game. And our guys were able to put a couple of runs to the board," manager Rocco Baldelli said. "Not nearly close to what we needed [Saturday]. But our guys did continue to play and have some good swings and have some good at-bats. So we'll take it. But again, overall, it was a tough day from the start."
Shoemaker started his quest for improvement Saturday night, when he parsed through the negatives of his performance – some bad sliders, overall shaky execution – but also acknowledged whatever positives he could find, such as how he amassed 10 swings-and-misses.
"I kind of give myself, I wouldn't call it 24 hours, but I wake up tomorrow morning, it's a new day to start it over with," Shoemaker said. "… I'll give myself until I go to bed. If I want to be mad about it, so be it. But after that, I'm not mad about it anymore."
For now, though, he's still oscillating between beating himself up for the loss and trying to talk himself out of a spiral.
"We definitely feel when we have some really good momentum going. The rhythm's great. Momentum's building, and everyone feeds off that. That's when you go out there and everyone's playing well and that's when you win a lot of games," Shoemaker said. "We were getting to that point. We won the last two.
"And I kind of go out there and have a bad one, and it puts us in a bad spot."