Rocco Baldelli isn’t one to hold team meetings often. But after watching his team lose 7-4 on Tuesday night to Cleveland, the manager knew it was time to stand up and address his group. It was the team’s fourth straight loss and the 13th loss in 15 games.
“There wasn’t much debate in my mind about if I was going to talk to the guys or what I was going to say,” Baldelli said. “We’ve probably had more get-togethers — we don’t do it every day, and we won’t — but it’s not just the wins and losses, it’s the way these games have played out that has made them especially tough to stomach.”
There have been heartbreakers — last Wednesday’s loss to the Athletics comes to mind. There have been games where they simply haven’t hit, including a doubleheader in Oakland where they scored zero runs in 14 innings of play. There have been games like Tuesday’s where they hung in there, but simply didn’t do enough to win. There’s been a couple blowouts, too, though by and large, the Twins (7-15) have been competitive in most of these games.
It’s not for lack of effort — and that’s one thing that Baldelli wanted to stress to his team. While the Twins can’t control their results, they can control the work they put in.
“These guys have been busting their ass, and the way you’ve been losing games, just the feel out there on the field, it’s very tough,” Baldelli said. “It’s very tough to handle. It’s very tough on the group.”
Tuesday’s loss to Cleveland (11-11) came after starter Kenta Maeda gave up five runs — one of those runs likely should have been deemed unearned after a ball ticked off Alex Kirilloff’s glove in left, allowing a runner to score — in his outing. Three of those came via the longball — two from Franmil Reyes and one from José Ramírez. Maeda has now given up six home runs in his last two outings, and after the game he expressed regret over his pitch selection.
Still, he said he felt better about how he threw on Tuesday compared to last week’s outing after a week of making mechanical adjustments and working with pitching coach Wes Johnson.
“Everything is leaning towards a good direction, a positive direction,” Maeda said. “I felt good throwing but the results weren’t there so I think it’s hard to get that momentum going without that win.”
Things got even uglier for the Twins the eighth inning when Alexander Colomé and Jorge Alcala combined to walk three batters and hit two, allowing Cleveland to add a pair of runs to help put the game out of reach without putting the ball in play.
And while there were signs of life from the offense — the Twins jumped out to a two-run lead in the first inning thanks to a Nelson Cruz stand-up triple, which brought home Byron Buxton, and a Kirilloff single, which brought home Cruz, and then added two more runs later on — throughout the game, it wasn’t enough.
“When you have guys go out there, playing hard, and we’re playing tight ballgames, and we’re keeping ourselves in these games, and continually it hasn’t ended the way that we wanted it to, that’s very, very tough on these guys,” Baldelli said. “And we all feel it in our stomachs. It’s hard to just ignore.”
The difficult month has plummeted the Twins to the very bottom of the major league standings, an unexpected place to wind up for a team that expected — and still expects — so much more from itself.
“It’s been about as tough a stretch as I’ve ever seen in professional baseball,” Baldelli said. “The way we’ve played these games, we’ve had our guts ripped out over and over again, is what I said.”