A rainout on Wednesday shortened the Twins’ series against Cleveland to three games.
Well, at least that helped the Twins avoid being swept in four.
Despite starter Ervin Santana pitching six effective innings, the Twins lost 6-2 after the bullpen stumbled and the offense continued to sputter. Cleveland swept the shortened series, and the Twins need to regroup.
The Twins like to think they are better this season. There’s no better way to test that hypothesis than by facing the defending American League champions. Through three games, it’s not even a debate.
The Twins blew leads in all three games.
They batted .235 in the series and scored a total of seven runs.
They were 4-for-22 with runners in scoring position (.182).
This against a team that they were a surprising 9-10 against last season, including 5-5 at Progressive Field.
“I think they stack up with us pretty well,” said Brian Dozier, who was 1-for-13 in the series. “A lot of things didn’t go our way, which has cost us games this homestand so far. It’s very aggravating.”
Cleveland showed off why it’s the class of the AL. On Thursday, Carlos Santana was 3-for-5 with a pair of RBI doubles. Trevor Bauer gave up just two runs over 6 ⅓ innings. Relievers Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen locked down the late innings.
Now saddled with a four-game losing streak, the Twins also have lost seven of their past nine.
Ervin Santana wasn’t as sharp as he was on Saturday, when he tossed a one-hitter at the White Sox, but he was effective enough to hold Cleveland to one run over six innings on four hits and three walks with five strikeouts. The Twins led 2-1 at the time, on a bases-loaded balk by Bauer and a sacrifice fly by Jorge Polanco, both in the fourth inning. Twins manager Paul Molitor, who was ejected in the eighth inning when he questioned home plate umpire Alan Porter for not asking for help on a checked swing by Jason Castro, turned the game over to his bullpen.
Tyler Duffey started the seventh but gave up two infield hits around a groundout. Molitor pulled Duffey and inserted Taylor Rogers to face Carlos Santana, whose slugging percentage was nearly 150 points lower against lefthanded pitchers last season.
Rogers left a fastball over the plate, and Santana bashed it to left for a game-tying double.
Francisco Lindor was intentionally walked to load the bases, but Rogers let an 0-2 advantage to Michael Brantley slip away, walking him to force in the lead run. Matt Belisle replaced Rogers and walked in another run.
“With the scouting reports and the way the at-bat was going, he was waiting for the fastball away to flick it to left field,” Rogers said. “I just wanted to go inside, but the count got late. Stayed away from the curveball so I wouldn’t walk him — and ended up walking him.”
Indians manager Terry Francona used four pitchers to get three outs in the seventh — with Miller getting Joe Mauer to fly out with two on and two out to end the inning and the Twins’ last threat.
So the Twins’ first meeting with Cleveland this season revealed how far they have to go to compete with the class of the AL Central.
“We gave them fits last year and we’re a lot better this year, and they just swept us,” Dozier said. “That’s the way it goes sometimes.”