The Minnesota Twins experienced something that looked extremely improbable after a six-game winning streak: a four-game losing streak.
The Twins have lost four consecutive games, a stretch that has a much larger impact than in normal regular seasons given the brevity of the 2020 campaign. One game this year counts as 2.7 games in a regular 162-game season. This could be troubling for Minnesota in the weeks to come, as both the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals are not expected to be playoff teams this season.
Minnesota went 5-1 against St. Louis and Cleveland a week ago, but went 3-4 against Pittsburgh and Kansas City, with the Royals sweeping the Twins in three games at Kaufman Stadium. The team now has more questions than answers, having struggled against opponents at the bottom of their respective divisions, as the Twins head into another stretch against better teams.
No Sigh of Relief
The four-game losing streak started with the reliever most might think incapable of starting such a slide: closer Taylor Rogers. While he had been perfect through his first four outings, he came in for the final game against Pittsburgh after the Twins had won the first three games of the home-and-home series.
With a one-run lead, Rogers recorded one out and allowed three hits and two runs as the Pirates walked the Twins off to salvage the final game.
The second game against Kansas City saw more bullpen woes for Minnesota. Lewis Thorpe came in at the fourth inning to relieve Jake Odorizzi after his first start, but didn’t record an out after allowing three hits and three earned runs on six pitches. After that, Cody Stashak, who had been reliable so far this season, got through the fourth inning but produced the same numbers as Thorpe, giving up three hits and three earned runs. Both pitchers that inning relinquished Minnesota’s two-run lead going — leaving them with a four-run deficit they never overcame.
Minnesota is going to need to rely more on their proven bullpen arms as the season goes on or get more innings from the starters to maintain their hold on the top of the AL Central.
Jake Odorizzi is… Back?
Good news: Minnesota’s No. 2 starter is back in the rotation for his first start of the season. Bad news: He had a shaky three innings with control problems allowing two runs on four hits through 71 pitches against the division’s worst team.
With both Rich Hill and Homer Bailey both now on the injured list, Minnesota needed Odorizzi back just to put together a five-man rotation. Odorizzi, showing signs of rust coming off an injury that delayed his start to the season, needs to return to his 2019 form fast or else the Twins rotation will have only two arms it can trust in Randy Dobnak and Kenta Maeda, with the likes of Jose Berrios, Odorizzi and spot starters like Devin Smeltzer still not at their best.
Minnesota’s pitching, both starters and in the bullpen, will be tested this season.
Byron Buxton iS Back!
Buxton has come alive in the last week, with a six-game hitting streak and a three-game home run streak that ended Sunday. In the last seven games, he is batting .286 and has a 1.066 OPS, providing a much-needed presence on the basepaths, especially for someone with his speed.
His resurgence has been seen again in the outfield too, tracking down difficult fly balls and continuing to make a significant impact defensively, which suggests his injury just before the season looks long behind him. He is back to 100%.
In a Twins lineup that is largely struggling at the plate, with both Mitch Garver and Miguel Sano batting below .200, Buxton’s increased performance at the plate is welcome — especially in the eighth or ninth slot of the lineup to lead into Garver or Max Kepler at the top of the order.
Milwaukee, Then Kansas City Pt. 2
The Twins have a three-game series at Milwaukee coming up that will be a test if they can rebound from the subpar week they had. After that, a rematch with the Royals at Target Field, where Minnesota will have a chance to redeem themselves against the AL Central’s worst team.