Twins' 2-game stretch not seen since 1971

Bundy logs 6 strong innings, but Minnesota's offense sputters in another 1-0 result

June 25th, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins’ pitchers couldn’t have done much more to help the cause in the past two days -- but the hitters couldn’t have done much less. That has led to a two-game stretch unlike any the team has seen in more than a half-century -- and on Friday night, it led to defeat, too.

Dylan Bundy was efficient and effective again for six innings as he went blow for blow with Rockies right-hander Germán Márquez on a muggy evening at Target Field, but the Twins’ offense continued its season-long Jekyll-and-Hyde routine, finding another nadir in a 1-0 defeat that marked their 10th shutout loss of the season, tied for most in the Majors.

Coupled with Minnesota’s victory over the Guardians in Thursday’s series finale, the results marked the first time the team has played consecutive 1-0 games since Sept. 13-15, 1971, when the Twins won two 1-0 games in a row against the Angels and Brewers.

“It’s baseball, you know?” Bundy said. “Sometimes, it’s tough to score runs. [Márquez] was really good tonight. … I let one run score too many, I guess.”

The Twins have to be thrilled with the production they’ve gotten from the back end of their rotation in this stretch, with Devin Smeltzer having hurled six scoreless frames against Cleveland on Thursday before Bundy allowed a run on four hits in six innings against Colorado. That lone run crossed on an RBI fielder’s choice in the sixth before Bundy completed the frame at a stingy pitch count of 60.

It has been a particularly encouraging stretch for Bundy, who threw eight innings of one-run ball against the D-backs in his previous outing, with the veteran starting to turn the corner from a rough stretch of seven starts from late April to early June in which he posted an 8.51 ERA, when opposing hitters posted a 1.018 OPS.

Like the Arizona lineup, Colorado’s hitters were aggressive against Bundy, who only needed 41 pitches to get through five innings.

"I think it's just the trust to miss barrels,” catcher Ryan Jeffers said. “You know, to trust that, ‘Hey, I can throw my stuff in the zone and get ahead of guys.’ Because when he was struggling, he was falling behind guys and then he has to throw something a little bit more in the middle of the zone.”

For a while, it looked like Bundy’s underperformance could make him the odd man out when both Josh Winder and Bailey Ober get healthy to potentially give the Twins seven healthy starters, especially since a six-man rotation is now out of the question with pitching staffs capped at 13. It’ll take more than two strong starts to fully turn things around -- but the results have come of late.

However, when the back end of a club’s rotation allows one run in 12 innings across two games, those are games the Twins should expect to win -- especially the one against a Rockies team that entered the series 10 games below .500.

Instead, the Twins once again found themselves asking an all-too-frequent question: Where did the offense go?

In aggregate, Minnesota has had one of the most effective lineups in baseball -- entering Friday ranked fourth in the AL in wRC+, fourth in average and fifth in slugging. But the Twins have clustered their runs all year, alternating massive outputs (they also lead baseball with 17 games scoring eight or more runs) with these sorts of paltry efforts.

Manager Rocco Baldelli points to the relatively hard contact his team makes, even in these games, as a reason to be encouraged, while Jeffers thinks it’s simply a matter of the club running into good pitchers. And indeed, Márquez, despite his overall struggles this season with a 5.58 ERA, saw a significant uptick in velocity with all five of his pitches as he threw 7 2/3 scoreless frames.

It’s a trend that has left them searching for answers, too -- and after Carlos Correa didn’t have answers in Seattle last week, Jeffers still couldn’t point to anything specific the Twins can do to mitigate these swings for now.

"Nothing,” Jeffers said. “We come into every game with a good plan. We come in ready to attack. Sometimes, baseball … baseballs. It does what it does. It becomes a really hard game for a couple of days. I've got a lot of faith in this clubhouse and a lot of faith in that lineup."