A defining three-game weekend series was swept by the Cleveland major at AL Central, and the twins held onto hope and each other after Sunday’s 4-1 loss at Target Field.
With a goal of reclaiming the top spot when the series began on Friday, the twins are now third in their league, four games behind the Guardian and two places behind the suddenly named Chicago White Sox.
On Sunday, they lost right-hander Max Kepler to injury after two rounds, and the game after they put the sprinters in the corner without a win in the seventh inning but were unable to impact Cleveland’s 2-1 lead.
Add to that winning the Twins 15-0 – 7-0 on Friday, 6-0 on Saturday and 2-0 on Sunday – in all three games before they put any runs of their own on the board, and they lost by just one point. Combined six runs.
“It’s not the series we were close to looking for here,” said technical director Rocco Baldeli. “As disappointing as it is, there are still matches to be played here and there are still matches against this team, and there are still matches against other teams in our division – a lot of them actually – to come.
“This thing isn’t over. It’s not about to end.”
Before they begin their remaining 23 home games Tuesday against Kansas City, the Twins’ players, coaches and staff members gathered for a pre-scheduled team dinner Sunday night. They also have a required day off on Mondays.
“This is a family,” said twins player Luis Araz. “We have dinner tonight. We go there, have dinner, just have fun there. I mean, I trust my teammates. We are here to compete every day. If we lose a game, well, it’s already been through. There are a lot of games to come.”
While they waited for stars Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco as well as Tyler Mahley, among others, to return from injuries, the Kepler twins lost at least one game on Sunday and possibly more after slipping a leg kick in the first half and leaving. The match was after the second half with what Baldeley called a “baseball-sized knot” near his knee.
Regardless of who comes or goes — or who stays injured — Baldeley promised his team “the bits to get it done,” even against a Cleveland team that won five out of six after losing five before.
“We lost a few matches this week because we didn’t execute them, we didn’t play yet [our] Baldeli said: “The capabilities, not because I think we don’t have the pieces. We simply have to rise. Each of us has to rise now and play above who we were last week. That’s easy and simple.
“We’ve got some influential players coming back. You always want them sooner rather than later, but I think they’ll come back.”
At ages 69-70, the twins were under 0.500 for the first time since they were 7-8 on April 23. They have lost nine of their past eleven matches.
“Now that I say it, it’s true,” Baldeli told reporters. “It’s not something I focus on. I focus on the match we have in two days and something like that wouldn’t affect a single thing at our club.”
The Twins play the Guardians five more times, all in a five-game series that begins in Cleveland on Friday and includes a double header on Saturday. They play second-place White Sox six more times, including a three-game series in Chicago to finish the season.
“We have a lot of season to go on,” said Twins starter Josh Winder, who gave up two runs in four rounds — on singles hurdles by Andres Jimenez and Stephen Cowan — in his first major league appearance since July 12. “That’s everyone’s approach. You’ll have lulls in the season. Of course, you don’t want them at this time, but with baseball there are a lot of ups and downs. Everyone keeps an optimistic outlook. Tomorrow off day will help.”
Twins 5-9 against Cleveland this season. Those nine losses were a difference of 13 rounds. Six of them fought one round, two of them with two runs. Cleveland led 2-1 Sunday before adding two games from Jorge Lopez in the ninth inning.
“One thing we won’t do is dig a hole and sit here and bury ourselves and say this thing is over,” Baldeli said. “The other teams also know it’s not over. What we have to do is pick ourselves up and show up on Tuesday. We have to go out there and start winning some ball games. We still have work to do and there are games to win.”