The evidence is right there on the scoreboard, on display for everyone at sold-out Target Field to see in 5-foot-tall numerals. Next to the names in the Twins’ lineup, the players’ batting averages are posted, and six of the nine numbers Monday were below .200.
Mortifying, right? Pitiful?
Probably so. Then again, they’re better than the Twins’ winning percentage: .000.
The worst start in Twins history, and the worst in the entire sport since Houston went 0-7 in 2010, got a little worse in the Target Field debut on Monday, and those frozen bats were the reason. Minnesota eked out six hits, five of them harmless singles, and walked off the field to a chorus of boos after falling to 0-7 with a feeble 4-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
“Not surprising,” manager Paul Molitor said. He was talking about the boos, not the final score, even though the Twins haven’t won a home opener since 2011, and started last season an almost-as-bad 1-6. “We didn’t give them a lot to cheer about today.”
Well, there was that sunshine, and plenty of Opening Day pageantry, highlighted by a flyover of F-16s, then Hall of Famer Rod Carew throwing an emotion-laden ceremonial first pitch. It’s something of a tradition for baseball fans to take Opening Day off and go revel in the excitement and hopefulness of the day. Normally, the ballplayers don’t do the same.
But that’s where the Twins are now: Mostly absent at the plate, and clinging to an occasional — very occasional — two-hit inning or two-base hit as a harbinger of warmer days and warmer bats to come. “Hopefully we get this turned around and by early May, nobody even remembers the 0-7 start,” Twins starter Kyle Gibson said earnestly.
That’s everybody’s dream in the Twins clubhouse, but their first-week dead batteries suggest that a turnaround isn’t going to be so easy. They have faith that last year’s experience, when they somehow morphed a 1-6 start into an 83-win season, is repeatable. But, whew, the Twins have moved into a pretty shabby neighborhood with this season-opening clumsiness, and the history is harsh.
Remember the 1962 Mets, widely considered the worst team in baseball history? Remember the 2003 Tigers, losers of 119 games? Yeah, they started 0-7, too.
In fact, the Twins are the 11th team in AL history to drop their first seven games, and not only did none of the previous 10 reach the postseason, none of them even recovered to post a winning record. The 74-win Tigers of 2008 are the most successful of the 0-7 clubs, who averaged 60 wins.
The Twins are dead certain they aren’t that lousy, or even lousy at all. They “just have to avoid giving in to everybody’s opinion, that it’s same-old, same-old,” said Gibson, who opening-day start was a sloppy mess, with three walks, six singles, a wild pitch and a two-run single by Austin Jackson dropping him to 0-2 on the season. “We’ve got a good ball club here. We’re going to score some runs. We’re going to throw the ball well. We’re just in a funk. We’re not too worried.”
The Opening Day sellout crowd of 40,638 clearly was, especially as the Twins offense continued to sputter. They put the leadoff hitter on base four times but scored him only once. They went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, continuing a maddening trend; the Twins are now 5-for-55, a batting average of .091, for the season.
The Twins have scored in only 11 of their 64 turns at bat this season, and their biggest outburst, managed only twice, is a mere two runs. In those 64 innings, they have registered zero or one hit 54 times, and they have only one three-hit and one four-hit innings all season.
In other words, “we’re obviously pressing at the plate,” Trevor Plouffe said, “and you can’t do that and be successful.”
Plouffe, whose fourth-inning double set up the Twins’ only run, was part of a contingent of veterans who spoke up in the clubhouse after the game, reminding each other that they’re the same team that stayed in the playoff race until last season’s final weekend.
“We just tried to calm everybody down,” Plouffe said of the brief take-a-deep-breath session. “We’re not going to change things fundamentally. We’ll just try to relax a little bit in those situations. We’ll come back Wednesday and try to win a game, then follow that up with trying to win a series. “