The Twins’ bats were relatively quiet early on in Saturday afternoon’s matchup with the Tigers, until Josh Donaldson stepped up to the plate in his third at-bat and put Minnesota in a position for a comeback win.
His two-run homer tied the game in the fifth inning and it was the hardest- and farthest-hit ball in a 7-3 loss at Comerica Park, as it left the bat at 113.1 mph and traveled a projected 425 feet to left-center field, according to Statcast.
The long ball was part of a five-hit fifth inning in which the Twins put together a sequence of well-executed at-bats that resembled their success in Friday night’s twice-rain-delayed 7-3 win.
Donaldson’s home run seemingly got his team going at the plate as Minnesota continued to swing through the zone and ended the game with 13 hits. Donaldson went 2-for-4, including an RBI double in the eighth.
Minnesota’s offense has been prone to hot-and-cold stretches and Saturday was the latest example. While the team was able to tack on hits against a struggling starter and a shaky bullpen, the Twins couldn’t get that key hit.
They recorded only one hit in the 14 at-bats they had with a runner in scoring position. As a team, Minnesota stranded 16 runners, while it loaded the bases twice in the game.
"I saw actually very good, very competitive at-bats until we got guys in scoring position," manager Rocco Baldelli said. “That's really not something that you want to acknowledge sometimes, but that's exactly what it was.”
Minnesota hit the ball harder than Detroit, but had significantly less to show for where those balls landed. The Tigers managed to score two runs on five hits while the Twins were held scoreless on four hits before the fifth inning.
"We actually did go out there and I thought saw the ball well and made some good decisions, and hit some balls good,'' Baldelli said. “And we got guys on base and we had every opportunity today,”
Right-hander José Berríos kept the Twins within striking distance, despite not having his best stuff. Berríos walked a season-high five batters while his only strikeout in the game came against the last batter he faced in the sixth inning.
“Some games are gonna be like that, but one thing I know, they can hit,” Berríos said of pitching with the offense’s lack of run support. “Soon, they're gonna start hitting the way they can and then those games are a bit more easy for me,”
Minnesota had an opportunity to tie the game in the ninth with the bases loaded and two out for Max Kepler against struggling Tigers reliever Gregory Soto. But Kepler’s soft grounder to first base ended the game and evened the series and set up a rubber game for Sunday afternoon.
"We put ourselves in a good position to have those opportunities, too, we just did not take advantage of them and that's something that we're gonna have to do,” Baldelli said. "When I say we had a chance to win the game, I mean it. [It] could have been any number of our guys going up there in any number of situations -- and there were plenty -- and probably one swing has a chance to break the game open.”