MINNEAPOLIS — Frustration has started to set in for the Minnesota Twins, but not yet desperation.
Following Thursday’s 5-4 loss to Texas — the second one-run loss in as many days — Minnesota has now lost six of its last seven games and enters the weekend with a 24-27 record. The Twins once again had chances against the Rangers but left 10 runners on base.
Now Minnesota heads to New York, a city where it hasn’t had much success in recent years, as manager Ron Gardenhire’s team looks to pull out of its slump.
"More than anything else, it’s kind of a game (that) runs in cycles," Gardenhire said following Thursday’s loss at Target Field. "You go through your good spells and your bad and you hope that you can get away from these streaks. That’s what we want to try to stay away from. But you have to swing, and right now we left a lot of people on base in this last series."
To be exact, the Twins left 31 runners on base over the last four games against Texas. That included 10 runners stranded on the bases Thursday, which had Minnesota’s players looking back and thinking what could have — and should have — been.
The bases were loaded in the second inning with nobody out before Josmil Pinto tapped a roller back to pitcher Nick Martinez, who fired home for the first out. One batter later, Eduardo Escobar lined into an inning-ending double play to extinguish a potential Twins threat after Texas had scored three runs in the top of the inning.
Minnesota left more men on base in the third inning. Trevor Plouffe and Josh Willingham were stranded on the bases when Jason Kubel struck out to end the inning after the Twins put two runs on the board. Again in the sixth and seventh innings, the Twins failed to drive in runners in scoring position, including a situation with two on and just one out in the seventh before a Kubel strikeout and a flyout by Pinto.
After a scoreless ninth that saw the Rangers leave Minneapolis with three wins in four games, the Twins now head to New York for a three-game series against the Yankees. On the heels of getting swept in a three-game series in San Francisco, this brief homestand stings even more for Minnesota, which had previously been playing better at home this season.
"It’s been a frustrating five or six games. I feel like we’re fine. We’re still right in the mix," said Twins second baseman Brian Dozier. "It’s just all about hitting with runners in scoring position. That’s what it boils down to."
Runs have been hard to come by lately, but Minnesota did have a series-high 10 hits in Thursday’s outing. Capping the scoring was the first home run of the season by Willingham as he sent a two-run shot into the second deck in left-center to give Minnesota a 4-3 lead in the fifth.
Starter Sam Deduno couldn’t make that lead hold, however, as the Rangers tied it up in the top of the sixth on a bloop single by Robinson Chirinos. Two innings later, Twins reliever Casey Fien gave up the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly that scored Leonys Martin for a 5-4 Rangers lead.
Minnesota had more chances to tie it up, but instead wound up with its third one-run loss in the last six games. The Twins had played well in one-run games earlier in the year but are now 9-7 in those situations.
"When you lose one-run ballgames, you look back at the opportunities that you had to get just one run," Dozier said. "There were a couple times today and a couple times this whole series, each game, a runner at third base and less than two outs and we didn’t get it in."
The Twins have hovered around the .500 mark all season, never getting more than two games above or three games below .500. They’ve been competitive in the majority of their games, including Thursday’s 5-4 loss.
In order to get back over the hump and end the skid, the Twins will have to start winning more games like the ones they’ve been losing recently. That starts by converting at the plate with runners on base.
"I definitely felt we had our opportunities in this ballgame. We just didn’t shut the door," Gardenhire said. "You just have to play through them. Guys want to win. We’ve seen the losing part of it long enough around here. We feel pretty good about ourselves. But these games are the ones that kind of make or break you. You’ve got to go and get them."