LOS ANGELES — The Twins left Minnesota on Sunday immediately after what they felt was an unjust overturned call at home plate that ended up giving Toronto the winning run in extra innings.
They had a day off under the California sun Monday to let go of that frustration, with many players and staff bringing their wives and children along for the trip against the Dodgers and Angels. Manager Rocco Baldelli — who incurred an undisclosed fine from MLB for his on-field and postgame behavior of sharing his deep disgust for the ruling — preached moving forward ahead of Tuesday's series opener at Dodger Stadium.
But perhaps a road game at the best team in baseball wasn't quite the easy bounce-back the Twins would have wanted.
The Dodgers took the lead in the first and solidified it in the second, taking out the Twins 10-3. From spotty hitting to throwing errors to the second bad start in three outings for Joe Ryan, the Twins never quite looked like one of the league's top teams.
"It was a rough game for us on all accounts," Baldelli said. "They outplayed us in every facet."
Numerically, at least, the Twins aren't quite stacking up with the league's best. And Tuesday was a reminder of that.
The loss Sunday shaved the Twins' lead on the AL Central in half. On Tuesday, it evaporated. The 57-52 Twins are now tied with Cleveland for the top spot, with the White Sox close behind them. The 76-33 Dodgers, meanwhile, are double-digit games ahead in the NL West. Of all the first-place teams, the Twins — and now Cleveland as well — have the worst record. Every second-place team, two third-place teams and one fourth-place team also top them.
Neither the division nor the wild card race are out of reach yet. But seeing the Twins — who already dropped a two-game home series to the Dodgers in April by a combined score of 14-2 — fail to mount much opposition against a top-tier team didn't inspire much confidence in the postseason future.
Ryan gave up nine hits and six runs — five earned — with a walk and four strikeouts in his five innings. One of those runs was a homer to Max Muncy. Ryan also threw a wild pitch soon after that and advanced a runner to third, though he ended up stranding that one.
Ryan said his off-speed pitches weren't working early, and while he did clean that up as the game went on, his off outing means he didn't feel like he could accurately measure himself against a strong Dodgers lineup.
"Granted, they're the best team in baseball, and they're a great ball club and a great team and stacked lineup," Ryan said. "… It always becomes difficult when you don't have some of the pitches that you've planned to have for that day and then working through that. Yeah, if your stuff's on, and they're on, then it's a little bit more fun, and I can get a better picture, I guess, of how I line up against that. It's tough. It's tough when I'm not executing at the level that I try to hold myself to."
Dodgers starter Julio Urias lasted seven innings, allowing just five hits, and one run from Gilberto Celestino's RBI single in the second. That briefly tied the game at 1-1 until the Dodgers stacked up three runs off four hits in the bottom of that inning.
By the end of the seventh, the Dodgers had taken an 8-1 lead, the latter two runs coming with reliever Trevor Megill on the mound. Byron Buxton smacked a consolation home run off Dodgers bullpen arm Phil Bickford in the eighth to score two runs, but the Dodgers erased that immediately, putting up another two runs in the bottom of the eighth with Emilio Pagan on the mound.
The Dodgers outhit the Twins 15-7. Eight of those were doubles and one was a home run. Many were hard hits.
Caleb Ferguson closed the game for the Dodgers in the top of the ninth, striking out all three Twins batters.
Baldelli said showing up against an elite team and beating them has some added significance and perhaps proves his team's mettle. In addition to Wednesday's game at the Dodgers, the Twins also have upcoming road series at Houston (71-40) and the Yankees (71-40), the two other first-place squads in the AL. Baldelli said to reverse Tuesday's results against these clubs, his team will have to play "excellent" and "well-rounded" ball.
"… We have to find the groove again," Baldelli said. "We need to find the feeling where we're putting complete games together again, and a few in a row. That's the good feeling. That's what you're looking for."