Miguel Sano trudged back to the dugout, head down, after striking out to end the 12-3 loss to Cleveland.
Sano sort of embodied the 2021 Twins experience Wednesday: a glimmer of early promise, an out-of-character mistake, a fleeting chance at hope before, ultimately, inevitable disappointment.
His double in the second inning was the Twins only hit for most of the game, the only barrier to a no-hitter as Cleveland stacked up 12 hits through seven innings. He also kept the Twins from being shut out, recording his second hit on a three-run blast in the bottom of the seventh inning. But Sano also committed a fairly egregious throwing error in the fifth inning, turning a fielder's choice into a two-men-on scenario before a game-breaking three-run homer.
In the end, neither Sano's bungles nor his bounties singularly won or lost the game. That, the Twins did together.
"We couldn't get anything going," manager Rocco Baldelli said. "We dug ourselves a hole … and we didn't swing the bats enough to get out of it."
Ultimately, Cleveland, a team that has been no-hit four times this season, outhit the Twins 14-3, taking this series 2-1. The Twins hardly reaped any offensive output from their heavy-hitters, including Byron Buxton, Josh Donaldson and Max Kepler, the entire series.
Cleveland blanked Buxton through the three games; he had just a walk Wednesday, eventually scoring thanks to Sano. Buxton's been back since Aug. 27 after departing June 21 with a broken hand. Baldelli pointed to that as a reason to give Buxton some benefit of the doubt.
"The numbers that he put up early and what he's shown us for most of this year when he's been on the field are so spectacular, that he has a series or a dozen at-bats where he doesn't square the ball up, and it does become conversation. But I don't want to let it become conversation because it's no big deal," Baldelli said. "… Coming back from this hand injury, I do think that that is going to take some time before he feels completely back to normal."
Twins starter Griffin Jax did perform in his usual manner, as in, starting off very well allowing just one hit through the first three innings only to crumble the second time through the batting order.
"It does feel like several of his starts have kind of played out in the exact same way, and I think anyone following the team, following him, you're going to see that, and you're going to take note of it," Baldelli said. "… That is a real thing for him. We know that's happening, but he's showing enough in these starts to know that there's something there. Have we fixed all the bugs at this point and worked through everything? No."
Jax lasted only 4 2⁄3 innings, giving up seven hits and five runs (three earned). Before his departure in the fifth inning, he gave up a three-run homer to Oscar Mercado, batting at the bottom of Cleveland's lineup, to left field. Of course, Sano's error put the pressure on him in that situation, but Jax graciously took the blame.
"I try not to put too much weight on it. At the end of the day, it's my job to get outs, and if I'm so reliant on the guys behind me, then I just need to put myself in a better spot there," Jax said. "If I'm missing more bats, if I work around hitters a little bit better, I could say a lot of things could have gone differently. But there are some pitches that I missed, and the results showed it."
The Twins bullpen similarly struggled, with Jovani Moran giving up four runs and four hits in 1 2⁄3 innings. He vacated for Andrew Albers, who gave up two homers amid his three hits and three runs allowed.
The Twins are on pace to give up nearly 245 home runs this season, which would be a team record, topping the 233 the 1996 team allowed.