May 2, 2016

Twins begin May just like April — with a loss

So much for putting the losses behind you.

The Twins, who won only seven of 24 games in April — including nine straight losses to start the season — didn’t make the case for a clean slate on Sunday after they lost their first game of the new month. They also were swept by the Detroit Tigers and fell 11 games under .500.

What can one say? The Twins are not playing well, and if they don’t get things turned around soon, they will find themselves in an even deeper hole with no chance of escape. Frankly, the team may have sealed its fate with its beginning-of-the-season losing streak.

Sunday’s game hurt because the Twins grabbed a 5-2 lead against ex-Twin Mike Pelfrey and then let it slip away. Starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco, who was sharp early, eventually gave up five earned runs, and then the bullpen got hung with the loss. Final score: 6-5, Tigers.

The Twins banged out 11 hits, including six hits from Joe Mauer and Miguel Sano.

But after the heart of the order did its job — and it has done its job, for the most part, since the start of the season — those getting on base aren’t coming around to score at a rate they should. Yes, the Twins miss Trevor Plouffe. At the same time, where is the clutch hitting? The Twins on Sunday were 4-for-13 with runners in scoring position — an area they have struggled with all season — and left 16 men on base.

Some aggressive, ill-timed base running on Sunday also snuffed out any chance of a rally. Sano doubled late in the game but tried to stretch it to a triple and was thrown out at third to end the game.

Strib columnist Patrick Reusse unloaded on the Twins after Sunday’s performance.

The Twins’ 7-18 start is an embarrassment for General Manager Terry Ryan, manager Molitor, hitting coach Tom Brunansky, pitching coach Neil Allen and roughly 81 percent of the 32 players who have been in uniform.

I’d give a pass to Joe Mauer, Eduardo Nunez, Byung Ho Park, Trevor Plouffe (pre-injury), Ryan Pressly and Fernando Abad at the moment.

That’s it. Everyone else has failed.

And there’s one more embarrassed individual: portly old me.

I watched this outfit for a month in March and wrote a column on the 2016 Twins with the punchline, “What’s not to like?’’

A month into the schedule, I have the answer: Hitting, fielding, pitching, base running and managing.

After the lousy base running, Reusse retold a tale shared with him by former Twin Rob Wilfong, who also played for the California Angels under manager Gene Mauch. Wilfong, as a pinch-runner, once tried to tag up from first base on a fly-out to center but was thrown out at second to end the game — with Reggie Jackson coming to the plate.

According to Wilfong:

Mauch did not play him or speak to him for the next several days. Mauch would simply turn from his usual stance on a dugout step on occasion, stare in dismay at Wilfong, shake his head and look back at the action.

Jose Berrios gets the ball on Monday.

 

COMMENTS

Hi, I’m Rolf Boone and I love the Twins.

I became a fan of the Minnesota Twins after a friendly wager in the early 1980s. I survived Ron Davis, the meltdown in Cleveland, Phil Bradley at the Kingdome and then marveled at a rising generation of stars and two World Series wins in 1987 and 1991. Brad Radke made the 1990s bearable, while Kirby Puckett’s eye injury, exit from the game and eventual death made it almost too much to bear. The new century ushered in more talent — Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau — and consecutive seasons of playoff baseball, followed by consecutive seasons of losing baseball. A winning season returned in 2015. So here we are. Go Twins.