If the Twins want to end their perplexing struggles at Target Field, they had better start pitching better. Holding onto first place is difficult when your team needs multiple touchdowns per game just to keep pace.
Adalberto Mejia turned in a clunker Monday, giving up nine runs in less than four innings, as the Twins opened an 11-game homestand by getting walloped by Seattle 14-3.
Once again, it got so bad the Twins turned to backup catcher Chris Gimenez for a relief appearance. He was one out from his fourth scoreless outing before the Mariners got to him for two runs.
“How many outings for Gimenez now?” manager Paul Molitor said before being told that it was five. “Too many. It’s 60 games in, so that’s not a good situation.”
The Twins suffered their sixth consecutive home loss, and they have given up at least seven runs in each of their past five games at Target Field. That includes something Molitor dubbed “the Houston debacle,” the three-game Astros sweep May 29-31 by a combined score of 40-16.
The Twins recovered by going 6-4 on their road trip against the Los Angeles Angels, Seattle and San Francisco. With a 20-9 road record for the season — a sharp contrast to their 12-19 home record — they were eager to turn things around this homestand.
Instead, the Twins gave up at least 11 runs for the 10th time in 60 games , one mopre time than in all of 2016 when they lost ateasm-record 103 games. Despite being in first place by one game, the Twins have given up 39 more runs than they have scored.
After Seattle, comes a four-game set with second-place Cleveland, the defending American League champion. That is followed by three games against the White Sox.
But while fans were dissecting the Twins’ pick of Royce Lewis with the No. 1 overall selection in Monday’s draft, Mejia was struggling through his worst start of the season. The Mariners had a 6-2 lead by the second inning.
The Mariners had little trouble solving Mejia after he held them to three runs over five innings Wednesday in Seattle.
“I think that was a bad day, but I don’t think that has anything to do with seeing them in the same week,” Mejia said.
The 23-year-old lefthander has been a pleasant surprise for the Twins, winning a starting job out of spring training and bouncing back after a demotion to Class AAA Rochester.
Before Monday, he hadn’t given up more than three earned runs in any of his previous eight starts. But there were warning signs. He had given up a combined 43 hits and walks in 32⅓ innings but minimized that damage by holding opponents to a .109 batting average (6-for-55) with runners on base.
But this time, Mejia (1-2) was shaky from the outset this time before an announced crowd of 16,996. He issued a leadoff walk to Ben Gamel and made a throwing error on a ball hit in front of the mound by Mitch Haniger, instantly putting runners at second and third. Nelson Cruz made Mejia pay with a two-run single up the middle.
Joe Mauer answered in the bottom of the first, lining a two-run double into the left-center gap against Seattle starter Yovani Gallardo (3-6).
But the Mariners kept pouring it on against Mejia in the second, getting five consecutive hits at one point. Seattle loaded the bases again in the fourth. Molitor went to his bullpen after Kyle Seager beat out a double-play grounder, making it 7-2.
“It seems like they were all over his fastball tonight,” Molitor said. “Kind of like [Sunday’s 13-8 loss at San Francisco], where they poured it on. Once again, we had to kind of suffer through another long game.”