CLEVELAND — Paul Molitor didn’t flip over the food table, didn’t throw equipment, didn’t scream at his players. At the end of a horrific road trip, Molitor was careful not to project the frustration and irritation he must be feeling after his team was outscored 60-27 in a terrible road trip.
“I’m not going down that route. It’s not like we have a team that’s been through this a ton,” Molitor said. “We’re developing young players who are trying to get better. It’s primarily my responsibility to try to do what I can to keep us on course, even though we’ve gotten away from some things we were doing well.”
So what can be done to change things now that the Twins are officially a sub-.500 team again?
“It’s going to be a matter of myself and my coaches and players to take a little gut check and see where we’re at,” Molitor said. He’s planning no lineup makeovers, no roster shuffles, and certainly no tantrums.
The danger, pitcher Phil Hughes said, is letting negativity creep in, the way it had the past few seasons. He allowed a run because of a ball that hit the plate and bounced over his head in the first inning, and he gave up two runs on a bloop single in the second. “I did a poor job of channelling my focus. I really let those two things get to me, and kind of put my mind in a negative situation,” Hughes said. “I’ve got to find a way to make the adjustment, but at the same time, I don’t want to dwell on these things. There’s always a learning experience that you can take from any start, but I don’t want to battle myself.”
Nasty pitcher tour
The Twins’ miserable week began Monday in Toronto against David Price — “the best pitcher I’ve faced,” according to Miguel Sano. The road agony concluded Sunday in Progressive Field against Corey Kluber — “the best righty I’ve faced,” Sano judged.
Quite a tour he’s getting.
Kluber’s record is a mere 7-12, but the Twins knew coming in that it’s a mirage, that the reigning Cy Young winner is only marginally less dominant than he was a year ago. He had already held them to two runs over eight innings in April, and “if he’s got his good stuff, it’s going to be challenging,” Molitor said.
He had his good stuff Sunday.
“He threw me a cutter, the two-seamer [fastball], the slider, and a curveball. His ball was moving really well,” said Shane Robinson, who managed nevertheless to smash a double to deep left-center in the ninth inning, then score the Twins’ only run on Aaron Hicks’ double. “I had a plan for each at-bat today, and the third time, it finally worked. I worked the count until he’d throw me the two-seamer. I hit it for once, and didn’t get jammed.”
Kluber’s only hiccup in the first 20 batters was a walk drawn by Hicks in the fourth, but he was quickly erased when Joe Mauer grounded into a double play. When Mauer came to the plate in the seventh, there was notable tension among the 21,305 in attendance
“Everyone is aware, very aware” of the no-hit possibility, Brian Dozier said. But Mauer, after nearly striking out on a foul tip that hit the ground, finally stroked a solid single to left field.
“He was nasty. He had all his pitches working, both sides,” Mauer said. “The one I hit was probably the best [mistake] I saw all day. You can’t miss a pitch like that with a guy like that.”
Not ready to switch jobs
Robinson said he received dozens of texts Saturday and Sunday, from teammates at Florida State and with the St. Louis Cardinals, congratulating him on his successful pitching debut against the Indians. He struck out Jerry Sands to end the inning by freezing him with a knuckleball. “They said it was a nice off-speed pitch,” Robinson said. “Pretty cool to get to see me pitch.”
He thought so, too, until he fielded a Jose Ramirez hit in the second inning Sunday and threw it back to the infield. Suddenly, he could feel the 14 fastballs he threw in his arm. “Pretty stiff,” he said. “After that [throw], I was pretty much done.”