Twins

The Twins Got "Pissed Off" In June, and That's A Good Thing

Photo Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to get a rise out of these Minnesota Twins.

Hey Rocco Baldelli, the Cleveland Guardians are one game behind in the AL Central and coming to town for a three-game series. Are you anticipating things to get real?

“I’ll answer it like I normally do, and there’s no way around this sentiment,” Baldelli said before Game 1 of the series. “We don’t prepare any differently because it’s the [Guardians]. It’ll definitely be a good series.”

That’s basically the same answer he gave before the New York Yankees series. That’s no fun.

Let’s try Sonny Gray. MLB veteran. Top-of-the-rotation pitcher. Had everything under control in Game 2 until things unspooled in the fifth inning. Are you guys watching the standings? Are you concerned that Cleveland passed you for the AL Central lead after taking the first two games?

“I think we’ve got 100 games left,” Gray said after his start on Wednesday, an 11-10 loss. “If you’re going to scoreboard watch now, good luck.”

Damn it, man.

How about Carlos Correa? World Series Champion. Locker room leader. Probably would have hit four bombs on Wednesday if Rob Manfred didn’t order baseballs made of play-doh. Are guys in the clubhouse upset after dropping two close games to the Guardians?

“No need to be upset or angry,” he said. “Just baseball, you know? Rough stretches sometimes; good stretches at other times.”

C’mon, man. You guys aren’t a little cranky after seeing José Miranda nearly hit a walk-off homer on Tuesday and then watching a 10-7 lead evaporate on Wednesday?

“On a night like this, we played two games in a row now like this that feel very unsatisfying, and you leave kind of pissed off. But again, you can’t focus on that for too long because we have a game to get ready for.”

Wait! Who said that?!?

“There’s no one in our clubhouse that’s not pissed off right now,” Baldelli continued.

“I mean, we should be a little pissed off based on the way we’ve played over the last couple of days and just the inability to get the job done. Getting the job done ultimately makes everybody feel better, and something that we haven’t done at the end of the games. I think we can use that as a little bit of motivation and use it to our benefit.”

Fair. Pissed off is good. But so is a calm clubhouse.

Let me explain.

The Twins shouldn’t be overemphasizing a three-game series against the Guardians in June. Yes, the Guardians are close to them in the standings. Sure, Minnesota is scuffling a bit, having dropped two of three to the sub-.500 Arizona Diamondbacks on the road. And, most pertinently, they will travel to Cleveland for five games next week.

The last time they traveled to the industrial Midwest to face an AL Central opponent, the Twins dropped four of five to a disappointing Detroit Tigers team. They’re screwed, right? This is it! Season’s over. Thanks for tuning in; see you next year.

Wait. Hold on just a sec. The Twins are pissed off, which means they have expectations.

They expect to hold onto a 5-3 game in the eighth inning. Instead, Minnesota lost Tuesday’s game 6-5 in the 11th. Franmil Reyes took Emilio Pagán deep in the eighth to tie it 5-5, and Andrés Giménez scored the ghost runner in extras.

Pagán struck out the side in the eighth on Wednesday and asked Baldelli for the ball in the ninth. What else was Baldelli going to do? Jhoan Durán pitched two innings on Tuesday. Tyler Duffey is struggling. He had already used Caleb Thielbar for two innings.

Baldelli eventually turned to Griffin Jax, but he had also pitched in Game 1. Pagán gave up two quick singles and a double to Josh Naylor without recording an out. Jax entered the game with runners on second and third and relinquished the lead.

“I felt equally as good in the second inning,” Pagán said after Wednesday’s game. “Sometimes, this game is brutal. I roll two ground balls, not hit very hard. We’ve got one of the best defenses in baseball.

“They somehow both find their way through the holes. Those two ground balls are a half a foot in either direction, and we’ve got two outs, nobody on. Then Naylor doubled us.”

Okay, fair. But be honest, isn’t it kinda deflating to give up a three-run lead a day after giving up a two-run lead?

“I don’t think it’s deflating because we’re confident in our ability,” Pagán responded. “If this kinda felt like a fluke of a start to a season, then maybe it would be deflating, like, ‘Oh, our luck’s running out.’ But that’s not the feeling that we have at all. We know we’re a good team.

“Cleveland’s hot right now. They just came from LA and played a really good series against the Dodgers. They’ve obviously played well the first two games. Again, a really close one. We’re a really good team, so the next handful of games against them is gonna be fun as well, and I’m looking forward to it.”

There it is. That last sentence. I’m looking forward to it.

Start to panic if this team develops a Sisyphus complex. Give up on them if they start to indicate that they can’t get the boulder up the hill.

Sisyphus eventually accepted his fate. He’s worn out, a defeated man. But the Twins are angry. They’re motivated to conquer the Cleveland rock. And yet, they cool off enough to go home, rest, and prepare for the next game. They salvaged the series with a 1-0 win on Thursday.

I peeked into the locker room before the media met with Baldelli after Game 1. Nobody was tossing chairs at speakers. They weren’t shouting at each other. But almost everyone in the room looked pretty upset. By the time the media entered postgame, things had calmed down. It was the same feeling after Game 2.

Gray and Correa have been around long enough to know that it’s a long season, and there’s no need to overreact to recent trends. Pagán knows he has stuff and needs to execute better. Jax learned to “embrace the suck” while serving in the Air Force.

Maybe the Twins will need to overhaul the bullpen in the middle of the season. Perhaps they’ll have to tinker with the rotation or add center field depth. But Cleveland could just be hot right now. They might regress in two weeks. Young teams are like that.

Granted, the best teams curtail winning streaks. They limit their opponents to 27 outs and don’t commit balks. They also don’t give their opponents any hope of coming back. The Twins still have a ways to go to become a threat in October. But it’s late June, they’re getting a little surly, and that’s not a bad thing.

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