Let’s be honest. If the Twins were ever going to make a run at the playoffs after their miserable start to the season, well ... this is when they were going to do it.
Thirteen successive games against Baltimore and Kansas City were supposed to do the trick. When the Twins left Cleveland with a series win and swept the Orioles, things seemed downright rosy. But since then, the Twins have dropped two out of three to the Royals and now the lowly O’s, and what was a happy-go-lucky five wins in seven games is suddenly four losses in their last six tries.
As the injuries have mounted, we could say that this team is now treading water, but we would be more accurate to agree that it’s floundering.
On Wednesday evening in Baltimore, the Twins opened the game with a Jorge Polanco double and a Josh Donaldson walk, only to watch Alex Kirilloff and Nelson Cruz strikeout and Trevor Larnach ground out.
Randy Dobnak pitched out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out situation in the bottom of the inning, however, and the Twins still struck first on a Ryan Jeffers (yep, he’s back!) solo shot in the top of the second.
Dobnak pitched around hits in each of the next two innings before running into a bit more trouble in the fourth. After back-to-back singles, Dobnak pounced off the mound to nab a Maikel Franco groundball. He fired to second to get one out, but Nick Gordon launched the relay to first on a single bounce into the camera well. The O’s scored on the play, and while Dobnak pitched out of the frame with no further damage, the game was knotted at one run apiece.
In the fifth, Dobnak tallied two outs before a frustrating walk to Freddy Galvis in an at-bat that featured multiple non-competitive pitches from the man they call Dobber. Predictably, D.J. Stewart deposited the ball well beyond the right-field wall in the very next at-bat, and the score was 3-1 in favor of the Orioles.
Meanwhile, Baltimore pitching faced the minimum number of batters in the third through seventh innings, allowing only one hit.
Caleb Thielbar came on to pitch in the bottom of the seventh and was able to get two outs, but a single and passed ball put a runner on second. Thielbar injured himself while striking out Galvis on a 62 mile-per-hour breaking ball, and he had to be replaced by Alex Colome.
Colome gave up a walk and then a three-run homer to Ryan Mountcastle, and all of a sudden the score was 6-1.
The Twins pushed back slightly in the top of the eighth on a Gordon single and a Jeffers triple off the glove of Cedric Mullins in right-center field. But Rocco Baldelli pinch-hit Miguel Sano for Gilberto Celestino, the former of whom is struggling mightily once again and the latter of whom had laced a line drive to second base and was robbed of a hit in his second career major-league at-bat. Sano struck out, of course, and the Twins only managed to get one more run home when Polanco laced a sacrifice fly to left-center.
That was all in terms of scoring, as Trevor Larnach was stranded on second base following a leadoff single in the top of the ninth.
- Gilberto Celestino had an eventful first game as a major leaguer. He was called out on strikes on a pitch at least six inches off the plate in his first time up. Then, he appeared to have his pinky hit by a pitch in his second plate appearance, but the umpires chose to overturn what appeared to be a fairly inconclusive play and sent him back to the plate. On the next pitch, he crushed a frozen rope to second base, but Stevie Wilkerson jumped and snared it, robbing poor Gilberto. He didn’t get another chance to hit as Sano pinch-hit for him in the eighth.
- Welcome back, Ryan Jeffers. With Mitch Garver on the shelf for some time, Jeffers will have a chance to catch almost every day, and he was the Twins’ best offensive performer in this one by a longshot.
- Dobnak pitched just fine, save for the terrible walk to Galvis and meatball served up to Mountcastle.
- Nelson Cruz continues to look a half-beat slow, swinging through mid-90’s fastballs and waving at subpar breaking balls.
- Ryan Jeffers: 2-for-4, HR, 3B, 2 RBI, 2 R
- Jorge Polanco: 1-for-3, 2B, RBI
- Alex Colome: 1⁄3 IP, 2 ER, 2 H, BB