Michael Pineda’s offspeed pitches didn’t exist, the Twins were decked by another big inning and a week that seemed promising at the outset is looking like a big missed opportunity.
Toronto turned back the Twins 7-4 on Thursday, which enabled the Blue Jays to take three games of the four-game series at Target Field. The Blue Jays were picked to finish near the bottom of the AL East. Baltimore, the Twins’ next opponent, is picked to be one of the worst teams in baseball. The week was set up for the Twins to fill up the win column.
But now they need a big weekend at Camden Yards.
“It’s early,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Our guys have bounced back from everything we’ve seen so far, whether it’s midgame or after a game or two where we haven’t played our best. Our guys show up to work every day ready to go. That’s all I ask for.”
Some have joked that the Blue Jays would have trouble beating their Class AAA Buffalo affiliate because can’t-miss super prospects Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette are there.
Those two weren’t needed this week, as Toronto put up crooked-numbered innings in all three of its victories. On Monday, the Blue Jays scored four runs in the eighth inning to rally for a 5-3 victory. On Tuesday, they scored four runs in the sixth inning and two in the seventh in a 6-5 victory.
After the Twins won Wednesday night’s rain-delayed game 4-1, they handed Pineda a 3-1 lead in the second inning Thursday. Eddie Rosario hit the first of his two home runs on the day, Jonathan Schoop hit an RBI single and a third run scored on a fielder’s choice.
Pineda (2-1), however, didn’t have his offspeed pitches, and the big righthander tried to get by with more fastballs instead.
“Today I don’t have my best stuff,” Pineda said. “I was fighting a little bit with my location. It happens sometimes.”
It caught up with him in the fourth inning. Justin Smoak hit a two-run homer to the flagpoles behind the right field seats to tie the score, and Eric Sogard followed by ripping a bases-loaded double to right to score all three runners. Both hits came off fastballs. Toronto took a 6-3 lead and never looked back.
That ended Pineda’s day. In 3⅔ innings, he gave up six runs on seven hits and a walk, with one strikeout.
Much has been made about inconsistencies of the Twins bullpen, and that was evident in this series. But the team could use another starter to pitch into the seventh inning once in a while. Jose Berrios has done it three times, but no one else has done it once. The Twins were fortunate Thursday that Ryne Harper went 3⅓ scoreless innings after Pineda was pulled.
“Even when they don’t have their best stuff they go out there and battle and that’s all we can ask for,” Baldelli said. “We’ve had some good performances, too, that have carried us to some wins as well.
“I talk about guys getting into the flow of what’s going on. I think the time is now where you’re going to see guys finally fall into their routine and finally getting some comfort in what they’re doing.”
Twins hitters can take some of the blame as well. They batted .219 in the four games, scored more than four runs only once and, on Thursday, were 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position.
It all added up to a underachieving four games at Target Field.
“I think we have a good team here but when you don’t win games you don’t feel good,” said Rosario, who had the seventh multihomer game of his career. “We lost this series ... it’s a long season.”