ST. LOUIS – They haven’t played well at home lately, and this road trip was no better. On Tuesday, Kyle Gibson tried a combination of the two, packing Busch Stadium with nearly seven dozen friends and relatives from his college days at Missouri, but the results were no better: The Twins’ second consecutive 3-2 loss to the Cardinals.
Is there somewhere else to play?
Minnesota, eager to get away from Target Field last week after a 1-5 homestand, returned to the Twin Cities on Tuesday night after a 1-4 road trip, a little deflating considering all the anticipation that the sudden addition of Byron Buxton added to the trip. The rookie collected his second hit in Busch Stadium on Tuesday, but the Cardinals waited out two rain delays to collect their mini-sweep of the two-game series.
“We had two games here when we’re in it the whole way against the best team in MLB,” Gibson said after allowing three runs in six innings but collecting his second straight loss. “Anytime you go 1-4, it’s disappointing, but we’re being competitive despite not playing our best baseball. At some point, the hard line drives aren’t going to be right at people, the hard ground balls are going to go through and before you know it, we’re going to rattle off five or six in a row.”
Maybe so, but the schedule, and the Twins’ recent troubles, suggest it won’t be easy. The truth is, the biggest change in the Twins’ fortunes may have less to do with the personnel on the roster or the venue of the games than the quality of the opposition. The Twins are eight games into a stretch of 13 consecutive against opponents with winning records, and they are 1-7 so far.
“Texas is obviously playing good baseball, and St. Louis has been pretty good the entire year,” shrugged Brian Dozier, whose first-inning run — his league-leading 52nd on the year — staked Gibson to a lead he couldn’t hold. “We had a bad road trip, but it’s not like we’re getting down. We’re still in a good spot.”
Actually, that spot could be third place in the AL Central before long, for the first time in three and a half weeks. Only Detroit’s loss to Cincinnati on Tuesday kept the Twins in second place.
Gibson, who picked up the cost of tickets for his parents, grandparents, in-laws and roughly “75-80” Missourians all together, bounced back from a pair of subpar starts to limit the Cardinals to six hits over six innings, but he was annoyed after the game about one pitch in particular: a third-inning sinker to Mark Reynolds that was supposed to be way inside, but ended up merely “hittably” inside.
“A righty up, two outs, a spot where I can get out of it, and unfortunately I made a bad decision on a pitch. I left it where he can get ahold of it,” Gibson said of the pitch, which Reynolds lined to left to score Kolten Wong and Mark Carpenter, and doom Gibson to his fifth loss of the season. “I’ve been doing that too much lately.”
Still, “it was fun to get back close to home. A lot of my wife’s relatives have probably never seen me pitch,” he said. “Close to Mizzou, to be back in front of friendly faces, was a lot of fun.”
That was about it for fun for the Twins, though. They were 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position, and 11-for-39 on the trip, the last one coming with Eduardo Nunez on second base, Eddie Rosario on first, and Eduardo Escobar flying out to end the game.
“I’m going to tell you, there’s not one guy in here that’s not seeing the ball really well. We’ve hit a lot of balls hard,” Dozier said. “We’ve got to do a better job manufacturing runs.”
Well, maybe Wednesday, when Buxton makes his Target Field debut. Only problem: These Cardinals, now 43-21, will be there, too.