The Twins played what felt like two full games before losing Sunday, so maybe it makes sense that they decided Monday that it counts double.
Ervin Santana delivered the exact performance the Twins were praying for Monday in the wake of that 15-inning debacle, holding the Astros in check for seven innings and leaving with a big lead. But the Twins bullpen, overburdened and underrested by a marathon holiday weekend, suffered its worst collapse in the team’s 57-year history, giving up 14 runs in two innings in Houston’s 16-8 drubbing at Target Field.
Sunday’s loss didn’t directly cause Monday’s, manager Paul Molitor said, but … well, come to think of it, maybe it did.
“We were affected by yesterday’s game and what we could do today,” Molitor said after watching his bullpen give up 11 runs in the eighth inning, the team’s worst frame in a decade. “The guys that we had were a little bit taxed, and we all saw the struggles.”
They will have a hard time forgetting them, actually. Ryan Pressly, Craig Breslow and Matt Belisle recorded only one out apiece in the Astros’ post-Santana eruption, while giving up five, three and three runs, respectively. Drew Rucinski, who arrived Monday morning as a much-needed fresh arm, added three more runs to the pile in the ninth inning, and was immediately returned to the minors after the game.
“It’s embarrassing. We’ve got to go out there and get people out,” Pressly said. “We’ve just got to go out there and continue to grind and put this one behind us.”
The Twins entered with a 4.19 bullpen ERA, ranked a so-so 18th in the majors. They walked off the field with a 4.90 mark, having fallen into a tie for 26th.
Amid the carnage, it was difficult to recall how much was going right for the Twins until Santana left, but they appeared headed to an impressive victory over baseball’s best team. Santana was splendid as usual, retiring 11 of the first 12 hitters he faced and working his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth during a sudden spring shower.
The Twins offense, too, bounced back from a quiet weekend, breaking out with a seven-run inning, its biggest of the year. Good at-bats abounded in that brief oasis of excitement: Max Kepler doubled off the wall; Jorge Polanco fouled off five pitches before stinging a triple into the right-center gap; and the top four hitters in the lineup contributed run-scoring hits in a row, capped by a vintage Miguel Sano monster home run to center, his 12th of the year.
Robbie Grossman homered, too, launching one onto the right-field plaza against his old team.
“It was a good game for seven innings,” Molitor said of the Twins’ 8-2 lead at that point. “We made a nice offensive day.”
Which made what happened next much worse. Houston’s 11-run eighth played out in slow motion, with a 10-minute rain delay thrown in there mid-inning. Pressly kicked off matters with a walk, then drilled Jose Altuve. Three hits later, he was done, and Breslow took over. He gave up three hits, the biggest of them a pop fly into center that Eddie Rosario raced in to reach, slid on his knees — and let glance off his glove. That scored the tying and go-ahead runs, though the Astros were just getting started.
Belisle was next, and after a single and a walk, he surrendered an insult-to-injury blast: Carlos Beltran’s 427th career homer.
The Twins were born in 1961, ths Astros a year later. In the intervening years, not only had the Twins never given up so many runs in relief, the Astros had never rallied from a six-run deficit entering the eighth inning. According to Elias Sports Bureau, they are now 1-659 in such games.
“It’s a hard one, magnified by yesterday,” Molitor said. “All you can do is hope you can find a way to recharge yourself.”