The Twins continued to play a poorer brand of baseball in Target Field than they have on the road. They slopped up a top of the 11th on Friday night and lost 6-2 to Cleveland.
This was the one game in the series in which the Twins had the pitching advantage: Michael Pineda vs. Adam Plutko. The Indians have Aaron Civale, a rookie with a 1.94 ERA in seven starts, on Saturday, and Mike Clevinger, currently among the top three or four starters in the American League, on Sunday.
The Twins have Jake Odorizzi on Saturday and then a yet-to-be-revealed starter on Sunday. Devin Smeltzer figures to pitch – either as the starter, or following Randy Dobnak, who pitched the first inning in Boston on Wednesday as the Twins’ first intentional “opener’’ of the season.
No matter how it falls, Cleveland’s ability to be overmatched by Pineda (6 innings, 4 hits, one run, two walks, 10 strikeouts) and still win the ballgame was the start to this series that the Indians required.
They now can look at sending out Civale and Clevinger and leaving here on Sunday trailing by 3 ½ games in the AL Central – with a tough week ahead for the Twins; namely, three at home vs. Washington and then three at Cleveland.
Brusdar Graterol, the 21-year-old with the big fastball, made his Target Field debut in the 11th. He faced four batters and retired none, pinning the loss on fellow rookie Lewis Thorpe.
The Bruiser wasn’t responsible for all of that loss-pinning:
*C.J. Cron had a chance to start a double play at first, booted the ball, and only another heads-up play by second baseman Luis Arraez allowed the Twins to get an out at first.
*Thorpe threw a wild pitch – the 61st of the season for the wild pitch-loving Twins – and lead-run Yasiel Puig advanced to third. Catcher Mitch Garver could have kept that one in front of him, and prevented the advancement.
*After Thorpe struck out Franmil Reyes, manager Rocco Baldelli switched to Graterol. He immediately fell behind 2-0 to Greg Allen, and the walk was completed intentionally. Roberto Perez singled to right to make it 3-2, Graterol hit Mike Freeman with a pitch, and then Francisco Lindor singled past a slow-reacting Miguel Sano at third, and the route was on.
Four runs and quite a mess.
Tribute has been paid to the Twins for a 48-24 road record, as it should, since it’s the best in the major leagues. At home, they are 39-30, with nine losses in the last 13 games.
There has been of sloppy baseball in front of the home folks, who were announced at 35,418 for Friday night. The audience will be larger on Saturday night, and the Twins will go past 2 million with 11 home dates remaining. They are headed past 2.3 million in Target Field’s 10th season.
Cleveland has fought through injuries throughout the season, and now is missing Jose Ramirez, its second-best player, and coninues to be without Corey Kluber, a two-time Cy Young Award winner.
So, no Twins’ moaning about injuries is permitted in this competition at the top of the AL Central, although Baldelli did hook both designated hitter Nelson Cruz and center fielder Jake Cave with ailments.
Cruz's was the left wrist again, but he’s likely to tough it out. The Cave injury was tightness in the lower midsection. With Byron Buxton and Marwin Gonzalez not exactly pounding on Rocco’s door to return to the lineup, the Twins are running out of outfielders.
Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler and raw rookie LaMonte Wade Jr. are about it, unless Baldelli wants to put Ehire Adrianza back in right field and risk a maiming – not Rocco’s, Ehire’s.
That game Adrianza had out there in Comerica Field recently … uff da.
Yes, the rest of the weekend doesn’t look all that promising, with Civale and Clevinger in the offing, but this urge toward pessimism forced me to search Baseball Reference for a three-game series against the California Angels when I was serving as the ball writer for the St. Paul newspapers.
On June 14, 1977, the Twins lost 12-9 in a series opener started by Paul Hartzell. Frank Tanana and Nolan Ryan, the Angels’ fantastic left-right duo, were scheduled to start Games 2 and 3 of the series.
The lede in the next morning’s Pioneer Press stated that the Angels had completed a sweep of a three-game series by winning the opener. Then, the Twins defeated both Tanana and Ryan, causing much derision to be aimed when the St. Paul beat writer entered the clubhouse after Game 3.
Meaning, going against Civale and Clevinger … there’s hope, I suppose.