MINNEAPOLIS -- A lead which at one point had hit 11 1/2 games in early June dwindled down to zero on Friday night, Aug. 9.
Though the Twins’ record-setting offense made history on Friday night setting a new franchise home-run record, it wasn’t enough to keep the Twins from losing their fourth straight game. The 6-2 loss to the Indians pulled Cleveland into a tie for first place in the American League Central. It is the first time the Twins haven’t had sole possession of first place in the division since late April.
“If you would have told us at the beginning of the year that we would be in this kind of race in mid-August, I think pretty much everyone in this clubhouse would take it. We have a lot of work to do,” first baseman C.J. Cron said. “Obviously it’s not an ideal start to the series but at the same time, there’s a lot of baseball left.”
The loss came after the Twins’ starting pitcher ran into trouble for the fourth time in as many days. Devin Smeltzer, coming off a six-inning effort in which he limited the Royals to just two hits and no runs, wasn’t able to replicate that on Friday, not making it out of the fourth inning.
Instead, the Indians (70-46), who had taken the lead in the second inning, broke the game open with five runs in the fifth inning. Smeltzer gave up five hits in the frame before manager Rocco Baldelli came out to get him.
“(I) got some bad swings and good ground balls and they found holes. The bunt, same thing. It’s baseball,” Smeltzer said. “Some days you’re going to come out and have all your stuff, and some days you’re doing to have to work with what you’ve got. And I thought I battled with what I had — nothing you can do.”
His effort comes as part of a tough past four days for the starting staff, which has now given up 28 runs (26 earned) in its last 20 1/3 innings pitched. Jose Berrios was tagged for nine runs and Martin Perez for six by Atlanta. Thursday, Kyle Gibson gave up six before Smeltzer did the same on Friday.
“It’s an odd little run. We’re playing against some good teams. Probably not playing our best but we’re talking about four games,” Baldelli said. “You don’t want to make any assumptions or judgments based on four games. Do we want to play better? Of course we want to play better. But, I have no doubt we’re going to play better. We’re going to turn this little spurt around.”
The team’s bullpen was saved by Randy Dobnak, who threw four scoreless innings in relief in his major league debut, but by the time Dobnak entered the game, the Twins (70-46) were in a hole against All-Star Shane Bieber that they couldn’t climb out from.
ieber was tough on the Twins, striking out 11 in his seven-plus innings pitched. He did surrender two home runs, though, allowing the Twins to make team history. Jason Castro’s home run, which led off the bottom of the fifth inning, tied the franchise record set in 1963 with 225 home runs and Eddie Rosario, the man who helped popularize the moniker “Bomba Squad,” snapped the franchise record in the sixth inning with his 25th home run of the year.
The solo home runs weren’t nearly enough Friday, though.
“We haven’t been palying up to our standard, that’s for sure,” Cron said. “We just need to get back to the basics. We need to start hitting the ball hard. We need to start throwing the ball better. That’s everyone in here.”