The Target Field crowd began buzzing in the sixth inning Sunday, then erupted when the Vikings' score was posted on the scoreboard, pockets of fans even starting "Skol" chants.
The enthusiasm level for the Twins never reached such a crescendo, and for good reason. "Just here for the free hats" would be a weird thing to chant.
Unlike the Vikings, the Twins couldn't seem to finish a scoring drive during most of a sleepy, counting-down-the-days September afternoon. In six of the first seven innings, the Twins advanced a runner to second or third base, five times with fewer than two outs. But only two of those runners managed to reach home plate, dooming the Twins to their ninth loss in 11 games, 10-3 to the Angels.
After the Angels established their early lead, scoring five times off Dylan Bundy in the first four innings, "we couldn't push enough across to get back in the game," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "I thought we had good at-bats."
Just not when they needed them, a season-long problem.
Defense has been a problem, too, particularly now that most of the Twins' regular veterans are on the injured list, replaced by young prospects. Gilberto Celestino and Jermaine Palacio each committed a throwing error that directly contributed to an Angels run scoring Sunday.
"There's certainly a level of growing pains that we're seeing a little bit right now," Baldelli said. "Not all of our players have seen all of these plays and experienced these things enough yet where they're comfortable going out there and knowing exactly what to do. But we're going to continue to spend time on it and drill them and go over these things, because we need it."
They could have survived the errors had their piecemeal lineup, which collected 11 hits for a second straight day, provided a few of them in clutch situations. Minnesota went 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position, and both came early. Gio Urshela's first-inning single, which followed a Carlos Correa double, and Nick Gordon's slicing line drive down the left field line delivered runs against Angels starter Jose Suarez.
After that, the Twins gave their fans plenty of reason to pay more attention to the football game across town, stranding runner after runner, four times with inning-ending strikeouts. The missed opportunities reached their nadir in the seventh inning, when two hits and a hit batter loaded the bases with one out.
Angels manager Phil Nevin, a former Twin, summoned Jose Quijada to face Gordon and Celestino with the tying runs on base. Quijada threw six pitches, all fastballs, to swiftly extinguish the threat with back-to-back whiffs.
The Angels, meanwhile, got five hits, three for extra bases, and five runs scored just from their superstar duo of Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani.
There were a couple of bright spots turned in by players who haven't been here long. Caleb Hamilton homered in the eighth inning, his first big-league hit after an 0-for-12 start. And righthander Ronny Henriquez relieved Bundy and pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings, the longest stretch of scoreless relieving, other than an "opener" situation" since Samuel Deduno against the Yankees on July 4, 2014.
"He's a pitcher, not a thrower. I've really liked what I've seen from him," Baldelli said of the rookie making only his second big-league appearance. "We may see that a little bit in our rotation and in our pitching plans. Ronny is holding up his end of the bargain."