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Twins hopes melting away

MINNEAPOLIS — Exiting the All-Star break, Minnesota Twins players were saying all the right things about wanting to compete for a playoff spot for the first time since 2010.

They had signed veteran slugger Kendrys Morales in June, a sign that management believed a run was possible.

Minnesota was only 6 1/2 games out of the wild card at the break and opened the second half with a 10-game homestand against teams that were all at .500 or worse. Players believed the homestand had a chance to be season-defining.

It was, but not in the way the Twins had hoped.

Minnesota opened it by getting swept in a three-game series against Tampa Bay, a team close to the Twins in the standings when the series began.

Two wins against Cleveland had a chance to turn it around, but things went downhill quickly over the weekend against Chicago as the White Sox took the first three games of a four-game set in convincing fashion — not allowing even a Twins lead until a 1-0 advantage on Sunday.

“We wanted this homestand, but we sure haven’t handled it very well,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. “We talked about how this was a good chance to do some things. We haven’t played well at home and that’s disappointing.”

A 4-3 win Sunday against the Sox salvaged a bit of pride for a team that began the homestand as hopeful contenders. But it was too little, too late, as the Twins traded Morales to the Seattle Mariners earlier in the week and have a number of other veterans potentially on their way out ahead of Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline.

“They come to play,” Gardenhire said. “It’s just been frustrating because we haven’t been scoring runs and we’ve been getting behind early. A very disappointing homestand, but to get the win today was huge. A lot of smiles out there and a lot of relief.”

Team Report

RECORD: 47-57


NEXT: Twins (RHP Kyle Gibson, 8-8, 4.19 ERA) at Royals (RHP James Shields, 9-5, 3.58 ERA)

Player Notes

n RHP Ricky Nolasco threw a bullpen session Sunday before the game. He will travel with the team on their upcoming road trip, throw three more bullpen sessions and go on a rehabilitation assignment as he recovered from a sore right elbow.

n RHP Kyle Gibson threw a bullpen session Sunday as well. He is on track to start Tuesday against Kansas City after having his scheduled start pushed back twice because of a stiff lower back.

n RHP Phil Hughes threw a bullpen and is feeling better after being hit in the right leg by a line drive on Thursday. He is on track to start Wednesday.

n 1B Joe Mauer hit off a tee Sunday and reported no ill-effects with his strained oblique. He will do the same Monday, take batting practice on the field Tuesday and Thursday and then go on a rehabilitation assignment.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “When you’re in a rut and you give up the lead like that, it’s easy to kind of fold up and get down. But we stuck with it, we fought, and we came away with the win.” — Twins OF Sam Fuld on giving up an early lead Sunday before rallying for a win with a three-run seventh inning.