Twins absorb second straight deflating loss to Guardians
“This is probably the most difficult most, I would say, gut-wrenching … series I think I’ve ever been a part of,” manager Rocco Baldelli said
CLEVELAND — In five games over the past week and a half, the Twins have held a lead in the eighth inning or later just to see it wiped away by a late Cleveland Guardians comeback.
Had they won all those games — all those games that they likely should have won — they would be 11 games ahead of the Guardians. Instead, they leave a deflating series with just a one-game lead in the division over Cleveland, suffering gut punch after gut punch after gut punch.
The latest knockout came on Thursday when Tyler Thornburg, asked to wear it for a tired bullpen, coughed up the lead in the eighth inning and allowed a two-run, walk-off home run to Andrés Gímenez an inning later, sending Cleveland to a 5-3 win in the series finale at Progressive Field.
“This is probably the most difficult most, I would say, gut-wrenching … series I think I’ve ever been a part of,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We should have won every one of these games but shoulda doesn’t really matter here and we have to go out there and finish games out with good baseball in the last couple innings.”
That hasn’t happened.
On Tuesday, the Twins saw Emilio Pagán give up a late lead in a 3-2 loss. On Wednesday, Pagán and Jharel Cotton gave up a combined four runs in the 10th inning to send the Twins to another loss. On Thursday, it was Thornburg’s turn.
“It was just one of those days, little bit off,” Thornburg said. “Just mechanics were a little bit off and obviously, control was off today.”
Not just for Thornburg.
Twins (43-36) pitchers gave up just three hits in Thursday’s loss. But they allowed free bases all day, walking the Guardians (39-34) 10 times and hitting a batter. On a day where the Twins were limited in the bullpen due to recent heavy usage, starter Chris Archer was forced out of his start early after his pitch count ballooned as a result of six walks.
Four of those came consecutively in the second inning, producing the Guardians’ first run of the game.
“I knew I needed to give a little bit, a little bit more length today and it sucks that I didn’t get there,” Archer said. “This whole series has been tough. … They’ve played us to the ninth inning every game and they got to us more times than not.”
Archer’s issues finding the strike zone led to the Twins dipping into the bullpen early. Jovani Moran covered the fifth inning and retired a batter in the sixth before leaving with a pair of runners on — one who reached via a Carlos Correa error and the other who walked. Tyler Duffey came on to clean up his jam, which he did effectively, getting the next two outs of the sixth and then striking out all three batters he faced in the seventh.
Rookie Jhoan Duran had worked two scoreless innings in Wednesday’s loss. Griffin Jax and Caleb Thielbar had worked on consecutive days. So, too, had Pagán. That left the Twins thin on available arms with their best option, Duran, whose workload they have been managing cautious due to previous injury history, off the table.
“We knew what we were up against when we got here today,” Baldelli said. “We knew there was only going to be a small handful of guys available. Guys were going to have to get through their innings.”
On Thursday, it was Thornburg’s game, even after giving up the lead in the bottom of the eighth.
After walking the feared José Ramírez to begin the ninth, he retired a pair of hitters before the Twins opted to pitch to Giménez, in the midst of a breakout season, with first base open. Baldelli said they considered putting the second baseman intentionally on first.
Ultimately, they didn’t, and Thornburg got ahead in the count with a pair of strikes before throwing three straight balls. Originally, he said, he was going to throw a changeup. He opted with a fastball instead, and Giménez took that fastball and put it in the seats, sending the Twins back to Minneapolis searching for answers.
“I truly believe everybody on this club is able to make adjustments, able to figure out what’s going on and make it right,” Correa said. “ … We’re still in first place. We just got to keep playing and play better.”
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