The Twins will open the 2023 season in Kansas City next March 30. That gives them — well, those who return — six months to forget the awfulness of this week's visit to Kauffman Stadium.
Josh Winder allowed only three runs over six innings on Thursday, making him the second starter on their eight-game road trip to turn in a so-called quality start, but the Twins' offense remained in its early-offseason slumber. The Royals homered twice, put up single runs in four different innings, and held the Twins to two paltry singles to complete a sweep of the three-game series with a 4-1 victory in Kansas City, Mo.
The lifeless loss completes a season-wrecking 1-7 road trip, the Twins' first to include seven losses since they suffered three such calamities in 2018, and drops them four games below .500, at 73-77, for the first time this year. It also reduces their elimination number in the AL Central race to just three, with nearly two weeks left to play.
"[This is] probably as low on the scale you can imagine," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli lamented. "I don't know how it could be more challenging for the group."
Give it time. They have 12 more games, including another road trip, to find out. The Twins are 30-45 outside Minnesota now, and just 5-23 outside Target Field since July 28; they haven't had a worse stretch of 28 road games since early in the 1982 season.
"You hit the road, you have to find ways to still focus and stick with your routines. But we do those things. That hasn't changed," Baldelli insisted. "I haven't seen anyone losing focus on the road. The performance hasn't been as good on the road, but there's no real reason for that."
The Guardians and Royals might take offense to that because for a full week they dominated a Twins team that led its division for four months. Minnesota was outscored 41-24 in the eight-game trip, and batted .211 with a .266 on-base percentage and .305 slugging. Cleveland and Kansas City combined to post .282/.352/.453.
Twins pitchers posted a 4.52 ERA over the eight games, including 4.95 by their starters. Guardians and Royals pitchers allowed just 2.19 earned runs per nine innings, 2.66 by the starters and a sparkling 1.76 by relievers.
"The baserunners just aren't there right now for us. The opportunities weren't really there," Baldelli said, especially at the bottom of the lineup. The last four spots in the Twins' batting order combined to bat .179 (21-for-117) over the road trip; their three catchers combined to hit .120 (3-for-25). "We need to find ways to get things going in the middle and the bottom half of our order consistently. We've got to find a way to score some runs up and down the lineup."
Four runs was far too much offense for the Twins to overcome on Thursday. They were held hitless by Royals righthander Jonathan Heasley until the fourth inning, when Carlos Correa beat out an infield dribbler. Luis Arraez, who has dropped to third in the American League batting race at .313 by going 5-for-27 on this trip (.185), followed a Caleb Hamilton walk with the Twins' other hit on the day, a line-drive single to right. Hamilton scored the Twins' lone run on a sacrifice fly by Nick Gordon.
Winder gave up back-to-back singles, with Bobby Witt Jr.'s 28th stolen base in the middle, to produce one run for the Royals, and K.C. outfielders Edward Olivares and Drew Waters led off the fourth and fifth innings, respectively, with solo home runs off the Twins' righthander.
"Just left too many pitches in the middle of the plate, a lot of hard contact," Winder said. "Got away with a couple. Didn't get away with some other ones."
Still, he struck out four, walked only one and finished strong, retiring six of the final seven hitters he faced to equal the longest start of his career. But the Twins have lost all three of the rookie's starts since returning from a two-month absence with a shoulder impingement.
"It's not how we drew it up. We're not playing the baseball we know we can," Winder said. "We've still got some games left and some time to put together a couple of good games. We'll be looking to do that once we get back home."
The Star Tribune did not travel for this event. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the event.