ANAHEIM, CALIF. – There were almost too many fingers to point in many directions Saturday night after the Twins bungled a two-run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning to end up losing 5-3 to the Angels in 11 innings.
- The hitters, for one, for going 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position. The Twins tried to rely on Carlos Correa's solo home run in the first and his sacrifice fly in the fifth and Gio Urshela's RBI groundout in the eighth to provide enough offense for a victory.
- Relievers Jhoan Duran and Jorge Lopez for fueling the Angels' comeback. Duran gave up an eighth-inning homer to Shohei Ohtani to break the shutout. Lopez gave up a one-out hit and a two-out walk in the bottom of the ninth before No. 9 hitter Magneuris Sierra smacked a 1-2 pitch to left for a two-run triple to tie the score 3-3.
- That play also fell on Nick Gordon's shoulders, as he unwisely dove for the liner in left field and missed. By the time he scrabbled up and chased down the ball, it took a lob from Correa and a leaping tag-out from Gary Sanchez to prevent a walkoff inside-the-park homer.
- In the end, though, it was an all-too-familiar name taking the loss: Emilio Pagan. He threw only three pitches in the 10th, the product of intentionally walking Ohtani, plus Byron Buxton singlehandedly engineering a double play with a diving catch of Luis Rengifo's liner and throw-out of Ohtani at first. But on his first batter in the 11th, Pagan gave up a two-run homer to Taylor Ward to seal the loss.
"A tough game to lose, obviously," said Correa, who reached base five times Saturday. "… These games will haunt you."
The Twins (58-54) had an opportunity to cut Cleveland's lead in the AL Central to just a half game but instead remained 1 ½ games back in the division by losing to the Angels (50-64).
Twins starter Dylan Bundy, who gave up just two hits and a walk in five innings, said losses like these are hard.
"We've got to get win games now," Bundy said. "This is the time that they matter the most."
Frustration was palpable in the visiting clubhouse at Angel Stadium after the game. Pagan, for example, has a 3-6 record and 5.23 ERA and has now surrendered 10 home runs in 41⅓ innings. He said he pulled his pitch to Ward down instead of toward the top of the zone. But he still has faith in his ability.
"Yeah, there's no question, you cannot doubt that I don't have elite stuff. Whatever metric you want to look at, I'm in the top whatever percentage of the game and relievers," said Pagan, who has seven blown saves in 2022. "But I've also looked in the mirror pretty honestly with myself. And I just, I haven't executed pitches consistently enough. When I do, the numbers are there, and they speak for themselves. But I've got to execute pitches better. That's really as simple as it is."
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli was also frank about his offense and its 14 stranded on base.
"We're not doing ourselves favors with runners in scoring position. There's no denying that. It's right there in front of us," Baldelli said. "… It was a game that we felt, just the feel in the dugout, you're playing a pretty good ballgame, you're making plays defensively, you're getting guys on base and in position. This is what happens when we're not able to add on. It's fine to say. That's the truth."
Buxton's words to Gordon as they trotted off the field after his botched play that enabled the Angels to force extra innings might be the best advice for the Twins overall.
" 'Just let it go,' " Buxton told him. "He asked me if he should have dove for it, and I was like, 'No, not in that situation.' But he's learning. For me, it's 'Don't hold your head down for trying to go out and make a play.' It is what it is. Come out here the next day and make the play.
"It's just one of those where it didn't fall our way."