ARLINGTON -- There were two places to find rollercoasters in Arlington on Saturday afternoon: Six Flags over Texas and Globe Life Field. Though if you’ve been watching the Twins all season, their 9-7 loss to the Rangers was nothing they haven’t seen before.
In fact, eight of Minnesota’s past 10 games have been decided by two runs or fewer. Five of those were one-run games. Add together all of the walk-off wins (five) and walk-off losses (three) and it stands that the Twins are playing a lot of tight games.
Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't. And over the past three games, it hasn’t. Saturday’s outing marked Minnesota’s third consecutive defeat, following a 9-8 loss to the White Sox in 10 innings on Wednesday and a 6-5 setback to the Rangers in the series opener on Friday.
“There's a lot of ups and downs in this game, and we're playing some games over the last couple of weeks that resemble this one,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Sometimes we're winning the game, and sometimes we're not, like today.”
Friday’s game resembled this one in many ways. It was almost like déjà vu at one point. Remember when the Twins jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the Rangers tied it, then doubled the score? The start of Saturday’s game looked a lot like that, just flipped around.
The Twins trailed, 3-0, in the fourth inning when Jose Miranda tied the game with a 428-foot homer. Gary Sánchez homered soon after, then Byron Buxton followed with an RBI double to make it 6-3. Sounds about the same, right? A six-run, five-hit inning for the lead.
Only this time, the Rangers’ $500 million middle-infield duo -- Marcus Semien and Corey Seager -- responded with back-to-back home runs to put four on the board in the bottom of the inning for a 7-6 Texas lead.
“I don't care if [the team just sparked] a big rally or not. You're trying to avoid damage,” said Twins starter Devin Smeltzer, who yielded seven runs on eight hits and three walks across 3 1/3 innings. “I've done a good job of that this year. You're going to have good days. You're going to have bad days. Today, they got me.”
The back-and-forth game wasn’t settled until the Rangers got a grip on one of the Twins’ most consistent relievers in Jhoan Duran. Including Saturday, Duran has only given up earned runs in five of his 30 appearances this season. He took the loss after surrendering a go-ahead triple to Semien in the eighth inning, followed by an RBI single to former Twin Mitch Garver.
“I chalk it up to the game is not easy, no matter how good you are or talented you are. Or how well you execute. You're going to have days like this,” Baldelli said. “I mean, he's had a couple of days like this this year. Most of his days, we know what they look like, they're pretty straightforward, and he gets out efficiently and quickly, and it looks really good.”
Baldelli’s solution to pulling off wins in tight games is just to make better pitches. The at-bats are decent, but the bullpen is in a rut, which has led to many blown leads. Ruts are going to happen, Baldelli said. That was the case for the offense earlier in the season. The pitchers just have some work to do.
“We have to make better pitches,” Baldelli said on the series overall. “We're getting to strikes. We're putting ourselves in some decent spots, and then we're, with just the lack of execution, kind of making it easy for them because we're just throwing it in spots where they can do damage.”