When Jose Berrios gave up nine earned runs and couldn’t get out of the sixth inning in the second game against the Atlanta Braves, it was easy to dismiss. It was his worst outing of the year so far, Atlanta has a good team and sometimes good pitchers have bad nights.
When Martin Perez gave up six earned runs in six innings the next night, it looked more like a concerning trend for him. He has given up four or more runs in five of his last six starts, and owns a 6.55 ERA over that span.
But when Kyle Gibson gave up five earned runs in a 7-5 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Thursday, who now are one game back in the AL Central, it becomes a concerning trend for the team. Now, for the second time all year, the Twins have lost three games in a row, and it comes at a bad time.
“We take it really seriously trying to keep the team in the ballgame and we know that if we leave the game within one, two runs either way, we’ve done a pretty good job,” said Gibson. “When you’re not able to do that it’s pretty frustrating especially knowing that seventh, eighth, ninth inning, you never know what’s going to happen with this team. We’ve got a chance to put up a lot of runs.”
On Tuesday against Atlanta the Twins gave up six runs in the sixth inning to go down 11-0. They scored three in the bottom of the sixth, three in the seventh and one more in the ninth in a 12-7 loss.
On Wednesday they gave up three in the first inning, three in the third and were down 7-0 before they answered with three in the sixth and four in the ninth in an 11-7 loss.
On Thursday, Gibson walked four batters in a three-run fourth inning, saw the lead reduced to 4-2 in the bottom of the fourth and then gave up two more in the fifth to go down 6-2. Minnesota scored three in the eighth, but Trevor May gave up a homer to the ninth hitter, Tyler Naquin, and Cleveland closer (and Chaska’s own) Brad Hand got Eddie Rosario to fly out to left with the bases loaded to end the game.
“They are probably just too deep to get out of,” admitted Rocco Baldelli when asked about the deficits the last three days. “We’re in a little bit of a rut, just starting pitching-wise. It’s just a little run of pitching not going your way and you’re not throwing the ball the way you want to. That is going to happen.
“We are playing against some pretty good teams as well and they make you pay when you are not on your game. But I have full confidence that our guys will be back and get back to what they have been doing and throw the ball well while going forward. There’s really no reason to think that won’t happen.”
The Twins haven’t lost four in a row this year. Doing so now would be the first time they have relinquished the AL Central lead in 130 days. Losing this series would put a lot of pressure on them to split in Milwaukee, win the Texas Rangers series on the road and go on a Cleveland-like winning streak against the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers after that.
Doable. But man that 11.5 game lead in the division seems like a distant memory at this point.
For what it’s worth, while the clubhouse clearly had the somber, empty feeling of a team that just lost, there was not a sense of despair.
“Tomorrow is another game,” said Rosario dismissively when asked if there’s more pressure on Game 2 of the series because they lost Game 1. “A different day, another game.”
The multiple comebacks, while ultimately futile, indicate this team hasn’t given up. But everyone knows the Bombas can hit. The question with this team all along has been their pitching, and right now they’re fueling the doubters and putting their batters in holes they can’t hit out of.