CHICAGO -- The Twins are looking for any way to get themselves out of their slump, even if it takes Nelson Cruz wearing a cooler on his head to do so.
The veteran designated hitter was seen in the dugout with a Gatorade cooler hanging off the top of his head during the Minnesota’s 4-2 loss to Chicago on Thursday. Manager Rocco Baldelli said Cruz was trying to get something going as the Twins struggled to bring in runs against the White Sox pitching staff.
Ultimately, the cooler didn’t have the effect Cruz hoped for, as Minnesota went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and lost for the fourth straight game.
“You know what? He's trying to get something going, that's what's going on," Baldelli said. "It's going to be different. We've done some different things over here and sometimes they're really visible to everyone at home. ... I don't care what [Cruz] does. Whatever we can do to get something rolling and get a few runs home, I'll take it."
When Twins starter Michael Pineda allowed a leadoff home run on his first pitch, Minnesota’s hopes of avoiding a sweep were already damaged.
The White Sox went ahead on shortstop Tim Anderson’s leadoff solo shot, and they never relinquished the lead. Pineda allowed another solo homer in the third inning to first baseman Jake Lamb, bringing his total of home runs allowed in 2021 to eight across 38 2/3 innings. But Chicago’s success with the long ball wasn’t the main culprit of the loss that sent Minnesota to the bottom of the American League Central.
The Twins had multiple opportunities to put rallies together against White Sox starter Lance Lynn, loading the bases in both the fourth and fifth innings. Minnesota managed to put runners in scoring position in four innings.
However, the big hit never came.
The Twins left seven runners in scoring position -- out of 12 total runners left on base -- and went 0-for-10 in those situations, leading to their fourth straight loss and seventh loss in the last eight games. Left fielder Trevor Larnach hit a two-out double in the fourth -- his second career hit and double -- before scoring on a Lynn throwing error two batters later. Center fielder Max Kepler hit his third home run in the past six games in the top of the eighth, but Minnesota couldn’t take advantage of its scoring threats as Chicago finished off the sweep.
“It's a little frustration because we want to win, and we tried everything to win in the game at the end of the day, you know?” Pineda said. “We lost the game, and yeah, it's a little frustration for everybody.”
Pineda started the sixth with back-to-back walks before White Sox right fielder Adam Eaton bunted the runners into scoring position, which led to Baldelli replacing Pineda with reliever Hansel Robles. Similar to Pineda’s first pitch, Robles gave up a single to Andrew Vaughn on the first pitch he threw, which scored Chicago’s win-clinching run.
The run was the third charged to Pineda, only the second time in seven starts that he’s allowed more than two in a game. And despite recording seven strikeouts against four hits and three walks, Pineda fell to 2-2 on the year.
“Another start from Mike that I think it falls firmly in his typical body of work. He battled his butt off out there again,” Baldelli said. “These are winning type of ballgames that Mike pitches. We don’t win all those games, but he gives you a chance to stay competitive and get something going on the offensive side because of the way he pitches, and he’s done that since I’ve been with the Twins. He’s been so steady and reliable, and good all the way around. Again, he went out there and we didn’t score very many runs for him today.”
The Twins (12-23) now sit 10 games behind the White Sox (22-12) in the AL Central. With Byron Buxton’s return not yet in sight, Minnesota is still searching for answers as the club heads back to Minneapolis.