Little blips lead to big frustration for Twins

April 20th, 2024

MINNEAPOLIS -- When things are going well for a baseball team, everything seems to be clicking. The pitchers are sharp, the fielding is sound and the hitting is timely.

But things haven’t been going well for the Twins of late, and Friday night provided another example of how failing to execute the little things can add up to a frustrating loss.

No single phase of the Twins’ game could take the blame for the Tigers’ 5-4 win at Target Field. In a team sport, it was truly a team loss.

“I sit there towards the end of the game, and ... well, there’s just a lot of things I can look at -- and I think anyone watching the game can look at -- that we can just do better and put ourselves in a better position to win,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said.

“We’re playing a lot of one-run-type ballgames. We have to play clean. If we don’t play clean, we’re just going to hand baserunners and potentially runs to the opposition. We’re not in a position to be doing that right now.”

Mistakes big and small contributed to three of the five Tigers runs on the night. And the other two were the product of some bad luck.

In the first inning, Kerry Carpenter hit a two-out double off starter Joe Ryan. Spencer Torkelson followed with a grounder to the right side of the infield. Twins second baseman Edouard Julien smothered the ball in short right field, but he couldn’t recover in time to throw out Torkelson at first base.

Carpenter kept running, however, and a strong throw by Julien would have nailed him at the plate. Instead, the ball skipped past catcher Christian Vázquez, allowing the run to score.

“We just have to stand up and make a good throw,” Baldelli said. “It’s an awkward part of the field, not a throw you make very often, but a play we have to complete.”

In the third inning, Ryan caught a couple of bad breaks that added up to a pair of runs. With one out, he froze Parker Meadows with a full-count fastball over the outer third of the plate, but the pitch was called a ball. Then, as Ryan struck out Mark Canha, Meadows stole second base. The throw from Vázquez appeared to arrive in time but Julien couldn’t hang onto the short hop and make the tag.

Wenceel Pérez drove in Meadows with an opposite-field blooper. Pérez then stole second and scored when Carpenter’s check-swing dribbler skidded through the left side of the infield with shortstop Willi Castro playing up the middle.

“That was pretty frustrating, to make some good pitches and -- I should be used to it after last year -- but I think it’s just frustrating just trying to get a win and have that kind of go that way,” Ryan said.

“One call, fastball down the middle, yeah it’s tough,” Ryan added. “But at the same time, I think [home-plate umpire Lance Barrett] was pretty solid the whole game, so … I’m not blaming the umpire for that. It’s just frustrating. I guess it kinda goes with the bloop hits all day, where it’s like, that’s sometimes how it shakes out.”

Pérez led off the sixth with a high fly to right-center. Right fielder Alex Kirilloff appeared to take his eye off the ball as he searched for the fence, and the ball caromed off the wall a few feet to his right. Pérez ended up with a triple and scored on another base hit by Carpenter.

Finally, with the game tied at 4 in the ninth, reliever Caleb Thielbar retired the first two Tigers he faced. But he left a sweeper over the middle to Meadows, who drilled it into right field for a single. Then Thielbar made a wild pickoff attempt that allowed Meadows to advance to second.

After Canha was intentionally walked, Pérez delivered his third hit of the game, a solid single to center that scored Meadows with the eventual winning run.

“You get a couple quick outs, a ground ball gets through, the pickoff is inexcusable, and just bad location with the fastball to Pérez there and that’s all it takes,” said Thielbar, summarizing his frustration on a night filled with them for the home team.