DETROIT – The gooey soft part of the Twins’ schedule has had some real crunch to it.
Three weekends after dropping three consecutive games at last-place Kansas City, the Twins were swept again, this time by the fourth-place Tigers, and the culprit is obvious: The offense has dried up. For the third consecutive game, the Twins scored only two runs, and the result was their fifth loss in a row, 3-2 to suddenly surging Detroit at Comerica Park.
“The road trip was a rough one,” said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, who never lost five in a row in 2019, and has never before managed a third-place team. “Every time we felt like maybe we were getting something going, or on a little roll, maybe we wouldn’t execute, maybe something wouldn’t go our way. It wasn’t pretty baseball from the beginning.”
Well, Kenta Maeda and Caleb Thielbar might disagree. Thielbar retired all six hitters he faced, four by strikeout, and Maeda held the Tigers to six hits in six innings, though one was a triple, two were home runs, and that was enough offense to subdue the Twins, who have now gone a week without scoring more than three runs.
“I try not to think about our offense and the run production. It’s more about giving up the [home runs],” said Maeda, who at 4-1 absorbed his first loss with his new team. “If I hadn’t given up that [last] run, the game would have been different. It’s partly my fault there, too.”
That last one, the biggest blow, was also the “fault” of a former Twin: second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who yanked a 90-mile-per-hour sinker over the Tigers bullpen, just inside the foul pole, to break a sixth-inning tie. It was Schoop’s Tigers-leading eighth home run of the season; only Nelson Cruz has more on Schoop’s former team, which allowed him to walk away without a contract offer last winter.
Jeimer Candelario also homered for Detroit, marking the first time Maeda has given up two homers in a game for the Twins. The righthander also surrendered a triple to deep right-center to the first batter he faced Sunday, Victor Reyes, and Miguel Cabrera singled Reyes home.
Maeda “pitched well. That’s the only thing you can ask of a guy,” Twins catcher Alex Avila said. “He set the tone. We just haven’t been able to score enough runs for some guys who have been throwing well. … Hopefully sometime soon we’ll be able to start hitting the ball a little bit better.”
They certainly didn’t do it in Detroit. Not only did they hit only one home run per game — Jorge Polanco did the honors Sunday with his third of the season — but on those rare occasions when they put a runner on second or third base, the offense nearly always died.
The Twins — who had 13 hits in the entire series, or fewer than the 16 Detroit collected in one seven-inning game the day before — were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position over the three games; their first run Sunday came courtesy of a Casey Mize wild pitch.
Not that Baldelli plans to panic.
“Worrying about what your record is is not the way to approach the day-to-day,” the manager said. “We have a lot of capable major league hitters, they have a plan, they’ve hit for a very long time, and I have very little doubt that they’ll continue to adjust as this season goes on and will return to form.”
It would help if the AL Central would return to its underachieving form, too. But with the Indians pitching staff, the young talent on the White Sox and the Tigers’ sudden surge, that’s clearly not going to happen this year.
“It’s a highly competitive division. No matter who you’re playing, every one of these teams shows up and plays with a lot of energy,” Baldelli said. “I don’t know what the records are going to look like at the end, but I’ll bet there’s going to be some really good baseball to be played over the next month.”
That’s as opposed to, in the Twins’ case, the past week.