Ron Gardenhire believed the Twins would surprise a lot of people. But he's the one shocked by his team, night after night.
Whiff after whiff.
"It's kind of hard to imagine this many strikeouts," the 12-year manager said after the Twins — with more than a month left in the season — shattered the franchise record for strikeouts in a season, whiffing 10 times in a drab 8-1 loss, their fourth loss in a row. "We had too many strikeouts. Way too many."
That's not exactly news. Wednesday's loss was the 49th time this season the Twins have reached double digits in strikeouts. That's a team record, too, but one they've held for six weeks already; the 2001 team hit double figures 26 times, a mark the Twins managed on July 13.
Chris Colabello was the history-maker on Wednesday, swinging over an 83-mph changeup from Royals starter Danny Duffy that dove under his bat in the fifth inning, the 1,122nd strikeout of the season, one more than the 1997 Twins managed. But Colabello is hardly culpable in this historic parade back to the dugout; he has struck out only 36 times this year. Nine teammates have eclipsed 75.
"I didn't think we'd have a whole group like this," Gardenhire said. "We definitely care about it, because it's not fun. But they're working, working on everything they possibly can. It's not like they're trying to strike out."
And it's not as if they're trying not to score, either, but that's also been the Twins' story lately. Kansas City starter Danny Duffy, making only his third start of the season as he tries to return from elbow reconstruction surgery, shut out Minnesota for 6 ⅔ innings. The Royals bullpen did the rest — only a ninth-inning Justin Morneau blast into the upper deck prevented the Twins' 11th shutout — and the Twins extended their streak to 38 consecutive innings without scoring more than one run.
The worst part is that the Twins are squandering some decent starting pitching. Andrew Albers, while not quite the surgeon he was during his major league debut in Kansas City, again frustrated the Royals with his high-80s stuff. Albers scattered six hits, never more than one per inning, and made just two real mistakes — "unfortunately," he said, "both of them went over the fence." Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez did the damage, the latter with a runner on base because of the first of Trevor Plouffe's two errors, but Albers reduced his ERA to 2.92 with the Twins' third consecutive strong outing.
With the Twins hitting so feebly, the only excitement was generated by a pitch that hit nothing. Albers buzzed a pitch under Perez's chin in his third at-bat, and the Royals catcher complained, pointing at his helmet. Umpire Hunter Wendelstedt issued a warning to both benches to prevent further trouble, but Albers said he was innocent, anyway.
"I don't have good enough stuff to just stay away, away, away. I've got to come inside," Albers said. "Unfortunately, it looked bad because he had hit two lasers the first two times up and it was the first pitch. But I'm not trying to go after his head, I'm not trying to hit him in that situation."