There wasn't a player in the Twins clubhouse after Wednesday's 11-10 loss to Cleveland who wasn't ticked off.
The Twins were the No. 1 team in the American League Central before Cleveland came to Target Field. With Tuesday's 6-5 Twins loss in 11 innings, the Guardians shoved the Twins over to make room for them at the top. And after blowing a three-run lead in the top of the ninth Wednesday, the Twins find themselves looking up for the first time in about a month.
"It's not a fun one. It's not an easy one. The ups and downs over the course of a game like that, they do take a little something out of you. There's no way around that," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "… We played two games in a row now like this that feel very unsatisfying."
Baldelli termed it as "the inability to get the job done," which is a nice way of saying the Twins cannot hold on to a lead against this sudden Central Division juggernaut.
Offensively, the Twins were solid. Carlos Correa hit home runs in his first two at-bats and helped the Twins to a 5-1 lead through four innings. But Twins starter Sonny Gray struggled in the fifth, giving up a leadoff home run and three more consecutive hits that brought Cleveland within one run.
Max Kepler's solo home run in the bottom of the fifth restored some breathing room, but reliever Jharel Cotton surrendered two home runs for three runs in the seventh, boosting Cleveland to a 7-6 lead. And while the Twins immediately responded with a four-run bottom of the seventh — including Gio Ursehla's three-run bomb — that would be the last time they scored.
"When you put up 10 runs, you expect to win," Correa said. "... that wasn't the case."
Emilio Pagan was a common denominator in Tuesday's and Wednesday's losses. He came into the eighth inning Tuesday with a two-run lead and coughed up the tying home run. On Wednesday, he came into the eighth with a three-run lead and struck out the side. But his redemption arc crumbled when he returned for the ninth and allowed three consecutive hits, including Josh Naylor's RBI double.
Griffin Jax had to make an unplanned entrance to finish the inning, and Oscar Gonzalez's two-run single and Owen Miller's sacrifice fly won the game.
Pagan said he felt good both innings and felt much stronger Wednesday than he did Tuesday. He added he campaigned to pitch the ninth, as he feels he becomes even better the more he throws. The ground balls he relinquished to start that inning he chalked up to the "brutal" nature of the game.
"I don't think it's deflating because we're confident in our ability. If this kind of felt like a fluke of a start to a season, then maybe it would be deflating, like, 'Oh, our luck's running out,' " Pagan said. "But that's not the feeling that we have at all. We know we're a good team. Cleveland's hot right now."
While Cleveland is now leading the division at 36-28, the Twins don't seem too nonplused to be sitting in second at 38-32. Gray mentioned there's still about 100 games left, after all. But that doesn't mean the Twins aren't noticing some of their shortcomings.
"It would just be nice to get back on a little bit of a roll and play good baseball," Gray said. "Pitching, offense, defense is collectively played complete games as a unit. … Just being able to bring it all back together."