You can keep a winning streak alive with one run. Just not every time.
So the Twins were reminded on Tuesday, when Oakland righthander Jesse Chavez put a halt to the Twins’ longest stretch of sustained success in more than two years. Chavez gave up four singles, none of them in the same inning, and forced the Twins to taste something they had avoided for nearly a week: a loss, 2-1 to the A’s at drizzly Target Field.
The Twins had averaged 7.8 runs per game during their five-game winning streak, and that’s including a 1-0 victory last Friday against the White Sox. “I don’t know if [Chavez] took it personally,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said, “but he went out there and threw a lot of fastballs. … We just didn’t square up a lot of balls.”
Chavez, displaying a remarkable affinity for hitting the corners, didn’t allow a Twin to reach second base until the seventh inning, and only after he departed in the eighth could the Twins scratch an unearned run across, on a Brian Dozier broken-bat single.
That set up the decisive sequence: Danny Santana, the potential tying run, stood on third base with Torii Hunter and Joe Mauer due up. Taking no chances, A’s manager Bob Melvin summoned his closer, Tyler Clippard, an inning earlier than usual, and he quickly went to a 3-2 count against Hunter.
“I know his changeup is probably his best pitch, and I had that in the back of my mind when he got to 3-2,” Hunter said. “And he kind of threw the fastball by me. … You know, he’s their closer for a reason.”
Mauer went to 3-2 too, then saw Clippard’s changeup. He hit it deep, but left fielder Mark Canha ran it down to end the inning. “We got the fly ball,” Molitor said, “one batter too late.”
That foiled any chance the Twins had of reaching a handful of turn-the-corner milestones: They had not won six games in a row since 2011, and they had not climbed three games above .500 since the end of the 2010 season. All 29 other major league teams have accomplished those meager benchmarks in the interim.
Trevor May, meanwhile, turned in a performance that was mostly inferior only by comparison to Chavez. The second-year righthander, facing the team against which he made an inauspicious debut last August — remember those seven walks in two innings? — this time had his control under control, walking only two batters over 5⅔ innings. One of them scored, but only after he was lifted as his pitch count climbed above 100.
“He kept us in the game,” Molitor said. “He competed really well. Overall you’d have to give him a pretty good performance.”
Just not quite good enough, not with runs so scarce.
May gave up a first-inning run that came within inches of being avoided. But with two outs and leadoff hitter Billy Burns on second base, Billy Butler lifted a high fly ball down the right-field line. Hunter raced over and reached into the stands for the ball, but the collision of ball, glove and the padded wall bounced the ball loose.
“It was actually in my glove, and when I hit the wall, the little slant that goes up jarred it loose,” Hunter said. “I just hate that it turned out that way.”
That’s because, given another opportunity, Butler lined a fastball into right field, scoring Burns.