MINNEAPOLIS -- It felt “like a movie out there,” manager Rocco Baldelli said, as he struggled to find the words to describe the four-hour, three-minute experience his team had just endured.
Whatever movie that ordeal evoked in Baldelli’s mind, there certainly has never been a baseball script quite akin to it -- and it didn’t come with a triumphant ending for the Twins, for all the fight and offensive fireworks they put up.
Rookie catcher Ryan Jeffers led an offensive demolition derby with a grand slam as part of a two-homer, six-RBI game in which Minnesota combined for seven long balls, including four in the eighth inning, as it batted around twice and posted a pair of six-run frames.
And, somehow, the Twins still lost to the Tigers -- 17-14. (Here’s the kicker: Minnesota didn’t give up a homer.)
“We play a ton of baseball games, and it didn't feel like, really, any of them that I've seen throughout the years, and we've seen some crazy ones,” Baldelli said.
Here’s another way to frame it: The Twins were the first team in AL/NL history to out-homer the opponent by seven and lose.
Or another: The Tigers were the first team to be out-homered by seven and win.
And sure, let’s tack on another for good measure: The Twins became the fifth team to homer seven times and lose -- and the first to lose to a team that didn’t hit a homer.
“I'm not surprised that there's some odd facts popping out from that effort, from what we just saw,” Baldelli said. “I don't know what to make of the stat. Our guys swung the bats good. I don't know how we could look at it any other way.”
The problem is that the Tigers also had a huge inning in an eight-run fourth against starter J.A. Happ, and they tacked on enough to hold off a pair of furious rallies that still fell short of completing what would have been the first 10-run comeback in Twins history.
And in yet another tough loss, the pitching struggles behind Minnesota’s selling position at the Trade Deadline were once again laid bare for all to see.
With the Twins down 10-0 at one point, give their offense some credit for forcing the issue. Immediately after Detroit opened up the massive lead and chased Happ in the top of the fourth, Minnesota scored its first five batters in the bottom of the frame on the first of Miguel Sanó’s two homers and Jeffers’ grand slam.
And after the Tigers added three more in the sixth, the Twins put up another six-spot in the eighth, when they crushed four homers in an inning for the first time since May 2, 1992. Max Kepler and Brent Rooker went back-to-back to open the frame before Sanó launched a two-run, 473-foot blast, the Twins’ longest of the year, and Jeffers brought them within a run, 13-12, with his second homer of the game.
“It’s crazy seeing how many home runs we were able to slug back-to-back there,” Jeffers said. “But we’ve said this whole season, this offense can hit with the best of them. When we’re clicking, it’s a fun team to watch.”
Despite posting a pair of six-spots for the first time since Sept. 17, 2017, Detroit still pushed across four more runs in the top of the ninth to seal the outcome.
Needless to say, the Twins’ offense wasn’t responsible for this loss -- and once again, the onus fell to a beleaguered pitching staff whose 4.88 ERA entering the game ranked third-worst in the American League, represented by another tough outing from Happ, who allowed nine runs in three-plus innings to raise his ERA to 6.77.
Happ’s struggles align with those of Matt Shoemaker (8.06 ERA), Alex Colomé (4.82 ERA) and Hansel Robles (4.91 ERA) in a disappointing free-agent pitching class that played no small part in pushing the Twins to this sale that began on July 22 with the trade of Nelson Cruz to Tampa Bay.
By the next time Minnesota takes the field in St. Louis on Friday, impending free agents Michael Pineda, Robles and Andrelton Simmons may be moved, while others like José Berríos, Kenta Maeda and Kepler have popped up in trade rumors in the final hours ahead of Friday's Deadline at 3 p.m. CT.
“Any time you're even having to contemplate subtracting from your group, guys that you care about and trust, and you ultimately love them, it's hard to even think about,” Baldelli said.
But the end of the road now looms, with this version of the team’s final game together serving as an all-too-familiar reminder of how they got there.
The Twins do hope to compete on the other side, sooner rather than later, and this offensive eruption, driven in large part by many of the pieces that should remain, served as a reminder of all that potential that could very well make another push with more help from the pitching staff next season.
They just didn’t have that help this year -- and certainly not on Wednesday.