A game against an out-of-division opponent in early May doesn’t always get the juices flowing, but the Minnesota Twins’ game against the Texas Rangers on Thursday, May 6, was the kind they needed to win if they’re to recover from a potentially catastrophic April.
They came close but couldn’t close the deal.
Twins reliever Hansel Robles gave up the tying run on a two-out, solo home run to No. 9 hitter Jonah Heim in the seventh inning, and Willie Calhoun drove in the go-ahead run with a single to lead off the 10th as Minnesota lost 4-3 to the Texas Rangers at Target Field.
Instead of salvaging a split in the four-game series against the Rangers and building their first positive momentum since starting the season 7-2, the Twins fell to 4-4 since ending a 2-13 run from April 10 to April 27.
It was the bullpen’s major league-leading 10th loss and dropped the Twins to 0-7 in extra innings this season.
“It’s not like there’s one thing to point to here,” Baldelli said. “First of all, anything can happen (in extra innings). You’re starting the innings with obviously a guy in scoring position. Their guy puts a good swing on the ball that’s over his head, drives him in, and that’s really the ballgame at this point. That’s the end of it. That’s how fast it can happen.”
Heim started the 10th on second for the Rangers, moved to third on a wild pitch from Tyler Duffey (1-1) and scored the go-ahead run on a single to right by Willie Calhoun.
Conversely, the Twins left Nelson Cruz at second in the 10th. Josh Sborz struck out Willians Astudillo and pinch-hitter Josh Willingham, and Miguel Sano popped to right field to end the game.
“We get those opportunities, too, with guys in scoring position, and we’ve got to find a way to get it done,” Baldelli said. “We’ve had opportunities to win these games,” Baldelli said. “We have to find a way to get it done. We haven’t figured that out yet.”
At 1-10 with a 4.62 earned-run average, the bullpen is an easy target for the Twins’ woes, but it’s not just the bullpen. After starter Michael Pineda left the game with a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning, Twins batters went 1 for 16 with one walk and five strikeouts. Sano, an all-star in 2017 when he had 28 homers and 77 RBIs in 112 games, was 0 for 5 with three strikeouts, and Kyle Garlick struck out with runners at first and second to end the seventh with the score tied 3-3.
“It’s a combination of us having to hold the other team with some very thin margins and, yeah, we expect our guys to be able to do that and do that often,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “That being said, we’ve got to add some runs on, too.”
Max Kepler hit his 10th career leadoff home run, and Willians Astudillo added a two-run single in the third inning to help the Twins build a 3-2 lead that Pineda made stick through six. Pineda was charged with two earned runs in six innings. He gave up six hits, including Gallo’s solo home run in the second, walked one and struck out five.
He threw 87 pitches and lowered his ERA to 2.43.
“Rocco makes the decision,” Pineda said. “If he thinks that’s good for me today, it’s good because, you know, he’s the boss. And we have a really good bullpen. I’m fine with that. Whatever time they need me to go a little deeper in the game, I want to be ready and do my best on the mound.”
Robles retired the first two batters he faced on grounders in the seventh before falling behind Heim, 3-1. The catcher unleashed a line drive into the visitors bullpen in left-center to tie the score 3-3.
Seven Twins relievers have at least one loss against a combined five saves. Alex Colomé has a team-leading three saves but also three losses and a blown save.
“When you play games and you don’t come out on top and you’ve used a lot of your higher-leverage guys — Rogers, (Duffey), Robles and some of the other guys — you know, that does become part of the conversation and an issue going forward,” Baldelli said. “You can’t use them every day, and the days we’ve used them, we have not won.
“… That’s why we have to also look to some other guys to go out there and pick us up, give us big innings, and pitch us to a win. Taylor Rogers, he’s not going to pitch every day and we’re going to be looking to other guys to do big things for us and help us win.”