MINNEAPOLIS — Bitter, raw disappointment seeped into and throughout Target Field’s home clubhouse weeks ago.
But anger is toughest to stomach when it’s coupled with confusion, and that’s been the emotion most apparent as the Twins’ season gone wrong dwindles toward an offseason fraught with question marks.
Saturday night, Adam Lind and the Toronto Blue Jays added to the chaos.
“I can’t figure it out,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said after his team’s 11-2 setback, the franchise-record-tying ninth straight in its stately, urban Minneapolis dwelling which continues to draw spectators, even with Minnesota (61-79) far, far removed from division or wild card contention.
Even Saturday, with football season and school in full swing, 32,882 people filed through the gates to watch the Twins tie a dubious mark that hasn’t been eclipsed since the organization was founded in 1961.
Toronto (66-76) finds itself in a similar rut, 20 games back in the American League East Division after an offseason full of personnel maneuvering that was hoped to concoct a deep playoff run north of the U.S. border.
The Twins quickly became a punching bag for that frustrated Blue Jays bunch Saturday.
By the end, the several hundred Toronto fans who flocked to the lower-bowl sections behind the third-base, visitors’ dugout seemingly outnumbered the home faithful, if not precisely in number then most definitely in volume.
This was supposed to feel like home.
Gardenhire didn’t even jump to talk about baseball afterward. When a reporter updated him in the Minnesota football game taking place, he sarcastically requested the conversation remain on that topic.
“We just haven’t played good baseball here,” Gardenhire said, shaking his head. “I really don’t understand that.”
The Blue Jays lit up starter Kevin Correia (9-11, 4.30 ERA) with five runs in the first inning — three on a 410-foot shot to dead center field by Adam Lind. Lind would repeat the feat in the ninth and finished 2-for-5 with six RBI.
After Lind’s first bomb, Brett Lawrie rocked the next pitch from Correia into the second deck in left field.
That sucked the air out of the palace on Twins Way before it could even be fully inflated.
“They jumped on pitches early,” Correia said. “It was kind of quick. Usually, I can make adjustments — like I did after that inning — but they just caught me.”
Correia’s second and third trips through the Toronto lineup weren’t nearly as taxing; after surrendering five earned runs on five hits in the first, he pitched five scoreless innings and yielded just two more harmless hits.
Like Gardenhire, Correia had no explanation for his group’s home woes.
“People like to point out home, away, different type of streaks,” said Correia, who struck out four batters and walked three in his first loss since Aug. 21. “There’s usually no rhyme or reason for it. People always look for a reason why a certain streak happens or doesn’t. That’s just baseball.”
He and a bullpen that yielded six more runs didn’t have much help.
The Twins struggled early at the plate against J.A. Happ (4-5, 5.09), who pitched 5 2/3 innings and allowed one unearned run. The later innings saw a season-long trend of stranding runners in scoring position persist, as Minnesota left the bases loaded in the seventh and eighth frames.
Such wounds were already open. Lind and Toronto, which tabulated 15 hits, brought the salt.
“The guy can hit, always has been able to,” Gardenhire said of Lind.
Slugging .470 coming in, Lind laid off three good-looking Correia offerings and ran the count full before drilling an 88-mph slider straight ahead for his 18th homer of the season. He showed similar patience against reliever Caleb Thielbar in the final inning, taking a pair of two-strike pitches, fouling off another, then hammering another long ball to right center field.
“Home runs tend to come in bunches,” Lind said, “and I’m a perfect example of that.”
It’s the worst kind of menace to opposing pitchers: a power man who’s patient.
“The big power hitters like that, you usually think if you make a good pitch, they’ll swing at it,” Correia said. “If they’re patient enough to get you into a situation where you’ve kind of got to take a chance and throw the ball over the plate, it’s to their advantage. That’s kind of what he did tonight.”
Yet another source of Twin Cities baseball befuddlement.
Mauer movement: Sidelined Twins catcher Joe Mauer took regular batting practice before Saturday’s game, inching closer toward a possible return.
Out of the lineup since he suffered a concussion Aug. 19 against the New York Mets, the All-Star was previously scheduled to swing before the rest of the team in relative isolation, like he did before Friday’s contest at Target Field. But the Twins didn’t hold early batting practice Saturday, so Mauer opted to join his teammates during the normal session.
According to general manager Terry Ryan, it went well.
Mauer spent Friday night’s loss to Toronto in the dugout. “I would say that’s progress,” Ryan said. “Today was more, because he hit in groups.
“He hit balls over the fence.”
Mauer, who took a foul ball off his mask and has displayed concussion-like symptoms ever since, remains day-to-day.
“We can’t do anything until he starts feeling 100 percent,” Gardenhire said. “Then you start moving forward, getting on the field, taking batting practice with the guys, running the bases, all those things, so we really can’t do anything until all the symptoms go away. That’s not happened yet, but he’s definitely gotten better.”
Red Wings stay alive: Plans for any additional September call-ups from Triple-A Rochester will have to wait at least another day.
Facing elimination in a best-of-five, first-round Governors’ Cup playoff series, the Red Wings kept their late-2013 run afloat with a 9-1 victory against the Pawtucket Red Sox. Scott Diamond pitched seven shutout innings and struck out eight batters, and Rochester scored six runs in the fifth inning to force a deciding Game 5 on Sunday afternoon in Pawtucket.
Rochester snuck into the International League postseason as a wild card and is now a win away from moving on to the championship series next week.
That’s just fine with Ryan and Gardenhire, who both said Saturday they hope the farm team keeps winning.
“We’re hoping they win tonight and get a chance to go on to the next round,” Gardenhire said. “Win tonight, win another one and go from there.”
Gardenhire was especially complimentary of the job Red Wings manager Gene Glynn has done. Under his direction, Rochester reached the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
“It’s never easy in Triple A, you have to understand, because there’s so much movement on a roster,” Gardenhire said. “Up here, everywhere. Down, up, and that’s kind of an uncertain thing, so it’s not easy to keep it at this level.”
The Twins have snuck in a couple late additions, calling up Darin Mastroianni and Josmil Pinto in the past week. More are expected to join the major league organization as soon as the Red Wings’ campaign comes to a close.
Watkins in: Tommy Watkins, the coach of Single-A Twins affiliate Cedar Rapids the past four seasons, joined Minnesota’s coaching staff Saturday and will remain until the end of September.
The Twins drafted Watkins in the 38th round in 1998, and he appeared in nine games for them in 2007. It was his only major-league stint.
Next up: Having lost 34 of their previous 44 contests against Toronto, the Twins will rely on rookie Andrew Albers to avoid the longest home skid in club history. Albers (2-2, 3.96) is slated to face Esmil Rogers (4-7, 4.76), with first pitch set for 1:10 p.m.
Minnesota remains at home for a Monday make-up game against the Los Angeles Angels then hosts Oakland and Tampa Bay for three-game series.