MINNEAPOLIS -- Thursday’s off-day will come not a moment too soon for these Twins.
They’ve played 14 games in the last 13 days in four different cities -- including a one-day jaunt to New York -- with an upcoming trip to Canada and all of the associated logistical challenges looming on the horizon. The off-day should help them reset after Miguel Sanó proved the lone bright spot with a late three-run homer in a 12-3 loss to Cleveland on Wednesday to finish off that grueling stretch.
“If you look up and down our roster, I think everyone will welcome it, from the position players who have been grinding through this every day and our pitchers, too, because it’s going to afford them a day or two more than they’ve been able to get,” manager Rocco Baldelli said.
Cleveland right-hander Cal Quantrill held the Twins to one baserunner through the first six innings before the Twins finally broke through in the seventh with a pair of walks and Sanó’s 28th blast of the season, a Statcast-projected 420-foot homer to left-center that helped him match the second-highest single-season home run total of his career.
The shot marked Sanó’s 12th homer measured at 420 feet or longer this season, most on the Twins and one shy of the most such homers among any season in his career.
Outside of Sanó’s big swing, the Twins were sloppy at the plate, on the mound and in the field as they committed a pair of errors and made a misplay in the field that all led to additional damage on the scoreboard against rookies Griffin Jax and Jovani Moran.
“We couldn’t get anything going,” Baldelli said. “We dug ourselves a hole tonight, and we didn’t swing the bats enough to get out of it.”
Jax allowed a three-run blast to Oscar Mercado in the fifth to break open what had been a 1-0 game, but that had been preceded by a sharp liner that bounced off third baseman Luis Arraez’s glove for a single and an errant throw by Sanó on an attempted force play that led to a pair of runners on base for Mercado’s at-bat.
Other than that center-cut slider to Mercado that was launched over the left-center field wall, Jax was again solid in his first time through the Cleveland lineup -- in which he allowed a single and a walk over three scoreless frames -- a continuation of his stingy .179 opponents’ average in the first time through the order.
"I think from a stuff standpoint, it was the best it's been in a long time,” Jax said. “The slider was working to both sides of the plate, lefties and righties. I got a lot of weak contact on it. I was able to work the curveball in there a little bit more. That's been a work in progress with the pitching coach, Wes [Johnson], and the bullpen catcher. So I was happy from that standpoint.”
He still got hit hard in the second and third times through -- but at least, this time, it wasn’t entirely his fault.
“He’s showing enough in these starts to know that there’s something there,” Baldelli said. “We still have some work to do with Griff, but I think we’re going to get there.”
Two innings later, a missed catch error on Jorge Polanco at the tail end of a play led to another run coming home as part of a five-run seventh against Moran and Andrew Albers.
As a lost campaign nears its conclusion, the Twins haven’t had an easy go of things from a scheduling standpoint, with two of their last three off-days wiped out for one-day trips to Detroit and New York in the middle of consecutive homestands due to postponements earlier in the season.
Though Thursday’s off-day will be devoted to traveling to Toronto, the day away from the field should still help a heavily used pitching staff in particular, with the club having allowed double-digit runs for the 18th time this season, four shy of the team record set in 1997 -- with seven games against the high-flying Blue Jays offense looming on the horizon.
“It feels like even though some of these have been laid out on our schedule for the last year -- we’ve known they were there -- we haven’t seen them because of the makeup games and things,” Baldelli said. “So it will be good to regroup for a day, travel up to Toronto and get settled in up there and then follow it up with another day off.”