Twins held to 2 hits to end tough road trip

September 22nd, 2022

KANSAS CITY -- There was a dribbler down the third-base line that resulted in an infield hit for Carlos Correa. There was a sharp grounder off the bat of Luis Arraez that got past the glove of Royals first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino. There was a sacrifice fly from Nick Gordon that scored Caleb Hamilton, who walked.

And that was it for the Twins’ offensive attack on Thursday afternoon. Getting just those two hits, Minnesota found itself stuck in neutral all afternoon as the Royals posted a 4-1 victory at Kauffman Stadium to seal a sweep of the three-game series. All in all, it was a symbolic conclusion to a 1-7 road trip that had started with some genuine hope.

After sweeping the Royals at home on Sept. 15, the Twins headed for a showdown series in Cleveland with a four-game deficit in the American League Central chase. But it all went haywire at that point, as the Guardians won four of five to send Minnesota limping on to Kansas City. The Twins had an early 3-0 lead in the series opener, but it wasn't enough to hold on. Then two straight games without any robust hitting meant the Twins had to head home four games under .500 (73-77), which equals the season’s low watermark.

Prior to Thursday, the Twins hadn’t been four games under .500 since they were 4-8 on April 20.

“Disappointing,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We have to find a way to score some runs up and down the lineup. When things don’t go the way you want, you have to go back to the basics in some ways and remind the guys that playing complete fundamental games is what is going to win games.”

With an injury-ravaged roster and the knowledge that they are drawing ever closer to elimination in the AL Central race, the challenge for the Twins will be rallying for a strong finish over the last 12 games to at least set a tone for what could be on the horizon in 2023.

Right-hander Josh Winder went six innings and allowed three runs in the series finale, but was stung by the long ball. Edward Oliveras homered off Winder in the fourth and Drew Waters went deep in the fifth.

“Just left too many pitches in the middle of the plate,” Winder said. “A lot of hard contact. I got away with a couple and I didn’t get away with some other ones.”

Baldelli was glad to see Winder get through six innings while keeping his team in the game.

“Not his most dominating start, but he competed well,” Baldelli said of Winder.

The Twins are 43-32 at home, but 30-45 on the road. The latest road trip simply reinforced a season-long trend.

“I can’t sit here and claim there’s a significant reason for it,” Baldelli said when asked about the club’s road doldrums. “I don’t see anyone losing focus on the road. The performance hasn’t been as good on the road, but there’s no real reason for that. If there was, I would say it.”

As the Twins prepare to open their final homestand of the year against the Angels on Friday, Winder is looking for the club to finish the 2022 season on a high note.

“It’s not how we drew it up,” Winder said of the 1-7 road trip. We’re not playing the baseball that we know we can. We still have some games left to put it together offensively, defensively and on the mound. We’ll be looking to do that once we get back home.”