PITTSBURGH – The Twins’ six-game winning streak happened despite sporadic offense. Pitching and defense fueled the run.
And when those two areas broke down Thursday, the offense could not do enough to overcome it as the Pirates rallied to beat the Twins 6-5.
Bye, bye win streak.
Taylor Rogers took the mound for the bottom of the ninth inning with a 5-4 lead and a chance to help the Twins start 11-2, which would have been a franchise record. But Kevin Newman’s two-run single through a drawn-in infield with one out gave the Pirates a walkoff victory after losing two games at Target Field and Wednesday night at PNC Park.
Being 10-3 at this point of the season is still an achievement. And the Twins are currently touring the soft underbelly of the Central Divisions as they leave the Steel City and head to Kansas City to face a Royals team that lost 103 times last season.
They will have to respond to their toughest loss of the season.
“I’d expect nothing different from our group,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “It really comes down to, regardless of winning or losing the game, we see the same group show up the following day.
“It comes into the discussion because we would come back well after losses, but last year, we came back well after wins, too, and continued to do that the way we would want our guys to.”
The Twins led 5-3 in the eighth when Jarrod Dyson drew a leadoff walk off Sergio Romo, stole second and third and then scored on a groundout.
In the ninth, Rogers gave up a soft single to Colin Moran and a double past third base by Bryan Reynolds to put two on with no outs. The Twins, following their philosophy, did not guard the lines against Reynolds.
“Sometimes, they don’t hit it where we play,” Baldelli said. “We’re not going to play no-doubles and stand on the line to make sure that happens. Ultimately, we don’t think that’s the most effective way to approach things most of the time. Sometimes, someone’s going to hit a double down the line. That’s going to happen.”
After striking out Gregory Polanco, Rogers got to 2-2 vs. Newman before the pinch hitter shot a single up the middle, scoring two runs and ending the Twins’ winning streak.
“I love watching him hit,” Polanco said of Newman. “He’s always ready and he never tries to do too much.”
Miguel Sano hit a three-run homer off Pirates starter J.T. Brubaker in the first inning. Jorge Polanco singled to right and Eddie Rosario worked a nine-pitch walk before Sano lasered a 0-1 pitch into the seats in left. The Twins have scored 19 first-inning runs this season.
Byron Buxton and Rosario added solo, two-out home runs for the Twins in the fourth and fifth innings, respectively.
Twins starter Kenta Maeda gave up only three hits in six innings and was poised to go 3-0, leaving with a 5-3 lead. His only blip came in the second when Gregory Polanco belted a 446-foot, three-run homer. The rally started when Moran was credited with a single on a sharp grounder to first that Sano should have come up with; Reynolds followed with a single before Polanco’s blast bounced into the Allegheny River beyond the right-field stands.
The Twins will try to get right at Kansas City. They were able to shake off crushing losses last year, and Baldelli believes that trait has carried over. “Very similar group, mentality-wise,” he said, “and I think they’ll be fine.”