The first time Andrew Albers was called for a balk, the Twins’ starting pitcher had a quick conversation with home plate umpire Mike Muchlinski, a willing audience, and Randy Arozarena, who had come in to score, was sent back to third.
It didn’t wind up mattering much, as Arozarena came home to score later in the at-bat.
The second time Albers was called for a balk, both the starter and Twins manager Rocco Baldelli tried pleading. But this time it was to no avail. A run scored, marking the beginning of a five-run inning for the Tampa Bay Rays.
After a scoreless outing his last time out, Albers was rocked for nine runs on 10 hits, earning an early departure after just three innings in the Twins’ 11-4 loss to the Rays on Saturday evening at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. It was the team’s fourth consecutive loss.
“I was leaving balls up in the middle before that, and I continued to leave balls up in the middle after that. So I can’t say that had an effect,” Albers said of the balk calls. “Obviously it takes you out of your rhyth. But at the same time, you have to find a way to overcome that and be better than what I was today.”
The first balk call, which was overturned, was part of two-run first inning for the Rays (86-50). Albers gave up four hits — one more than he gave up during his entire 5 1/3-inning scoreless effort last time out.
During the second, the Rays pounced. After the balk, Albers fell behind 3-0 to Nelson Cruz before the Twins (58-77) decided to intentionally walk their former designated hitter. Yandy Díaz made them pay with a three-run home run, and Jordan Luplow followed as the pair went back-to-back. All five runs scored after Albers had gotten two quick outs to begin the inning.
“You have to find a way to get through that inning. I just didn’t make enough pitches,” Albers said. “I needed to make one more pitch, and I wasn’t able to do that. That was the game right there. It got out of hand in a hurry.”
Albers’ day was marred by four home runs. Twins pitchers gave up six, including one to Cruz. Four of those six came with two outs.
The outcome was never in question, even as the Twins came back and scored four runs during the middle innings. Second baseman Jorge Polanco finished a triple shy of the cycle, driving in two of the Twins’ four runs with a two-out, two-run home run off Rays starter Chris Archer in the fifth inning.
In addition to the game, the Twins also lost Miguel Sanó — at least for part of the game — to injury. Sanó, who homered in the fourth inning, left after a collision with Rays catcher Mike Zunino, who had popped the ball up and made contact with Sanó’s left shoulder as he was running to first.
Baldelli said Sanó was doing OK after the game, but he had been jarred up. They will re-assess him again on Sunday.
“It was obviously a rough day for us, especially early on. It was tough to get through some of those innings,” Baldelli said. “Seemed like even when (Albers) made a good pitch, it was hit. There’s going to be days like that. This was one of those types of days where we just have to kind of pack this one up and get ready for our next game.”