It's time for the next biggest road trip of the season.
"Because we're saying it every time we go on the road, that means we're playing meaningful games, and I think that's part of it," Twins righthander Kyle Gibson said. "Every homestand is going to be big. Every road trip is going to be big at this point."
It's what the Twins have wanted since their last postseason appearance in 2010. They didn't help their cause Thursday with a 6-4 loss to the Chicago White Sox that included costly wild pitches and a bullpen breakdown in the seventh. And they wasted Eddie Rosario's first major league grand slam.
But they left Target Field and headed for Houston after the game, where they will start a three-city road trip, looking to do what they have done often this season — shake off losses and remain in the American League wild-card chase. They finished 4-2 on their homestand after going 6-4 on their last road trip, during which they changed direction after losing three in a row in New York.
"We had a lot of confidence coming back home, and we had a good home- stand," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "It's not time to rely on [momentum]. You rely on playing well."
The challenges of September baseball continue. The Twins left town without closer Glen Perkins, out indefinitely because of a strained back. Rookie slugger Miguel Sano, the savior of the summer, is battling a sore right hamstring.
Sano did pinch hit with a runner on first and two outs in the eighth inning. As the crowd buzzed with anticipation, Sano flied out to right to end the inning. White Sox closer David Robertson then pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 28th save and Chicago won in Target Field for only the second time in 10 games this season.
Sano is expected to be back in the lineup Friday.
The Twins trailed 1-0 in the third when Rosario, who flied out with the bases loaded in the first, got a similar chance against White Sox righthander Jeff Samardzija.
Rosario took one pitch, then bashed a breaking ball into the second deck in right field. Samardzija, who walked a season-high four batters, muttered to himself as Rosario rounded the bases after his ninth home run — and first career slam.
The Twins led 4-1, but Gibson wasn't sharp. His wild pitch in the fourth allowed Adam LaRoche to advance to second, then score on Alexei Ramirez's single to make it 4-2. Another wild pitch by Gibson in the sixth allowed Jose Abreu to advance to third, and he scored on Avisail Garcia's sacrifice fly to make it 4-3. Both wild pitches came on changeups bounced in the dirt.
"It was unfortunate for it to happen in that situation because that's really what cost me those two runs," Gibson said.
Chicago scored three runs in the seventh, which were charged to Twins reliever Casey Fien. Two came on a pinch-hit RBI triple by J.B. Shuck and the other on a sacrifice fly by Adam Eaton.
"I'm just going out there trying to throw strikes and keep the ball down," Fien said. "They got me [Thursday]."
If you thought the Twins had a tough road trip scheduled their last time out, the first two legs of this one are tougher. They will spend the weekend in Houston, where the AL West-leading Astros are a 46-23 juggernaut at Minute Maid Park. Then it's on to Kansas City, where the AL Central leaders are 47-22 at Kauffman Stadium. After the gantlet of division leaders, the Twins will wrap up their road trip with three games in Chicago.
"There's no time to feel sorry for yourself," Molitor said. "You have to go out there and play the big boys."