With every hit Sunday, every run, the Astros seemed to zoom around Target Field in fast-forward. The Twins were somehow paused, paralyzed, unable to do anything but watch as another game of the season, another day on the calendar rolled to credits.
The Twins are running out of time.
With an alarming 14-3 loss in front of 19,147 at Target Field, the Twins ticked Game 65 off the schedule. And while there are still 97 games to play and about six weeks until the trade deadline, the 26-39 team that's 15 games out at the bottom of the American League Central feels the passage of time more acutely each outing.
"We do have a lot of games left," manager Rocco Baldelli said. "Do we have a lot of games left to prove what we're going to be as the season goes on and the direction that we're going to take for the rest of the season? I don't know how many games left we have for that.
"… We have a lot to prove, and we don't have the entire season to prove it."
Sunday felt like mostly time wasted. Starting pitcher Michael Pineda left after just four innings, nagging right forearm tightness to blame. The sore muscle slowed his velocity a bit and diminished his slider entirely, as Pineda gave up six hits and three runs, including Kyle Tucker's two-run home run. Now Pineda needs "a little break," per Baldelli, to rest and shake the problem.
Pineda's game was the opposite of Jose Berrios' on Saturday. Berrios has been the only reliable pitcher in the Twins' rotation this season, and when he pitches well into the later innings, the team wins.
But when the bullpen leapt into action in the fifth inning Sunday, the slow-motion disaster never ended.
Randy Dobnak, dealing with a broken nail and bruised finger from his most recent start, pitched the fifth and sixth innings, allowing Houston seven hits, and six runs, partly from Michael Brantley's two-run double and Yordan Alvarez's two-run homer. Alexander Colome in the seventh conceded three hits and two earned runs from Brantley's two-run single. Matt Shoemaker, making his second bullpen appearance after being demoted from the rotation, pitched the final two innings and coughed up four more hits and three more runs, one of which was a solo homer to pinch-hitter Chas McCormick.
The Astros scored in seven of nine innings and in each of the final six, accumulating 20 hits, a season high allowed by the Twins.
The Twins offense failed to provide much run support, with Houston starter Framber Valdez holding them scoreless through four innings. Ryan Jeffers prevented a shutout with a solo homer in the fifth. Nelson Cruz batted in Josh Donaldson in the sixth and hit a solo homer in the eighth. But the Astros still nearly tripled the Twins' seven hits.
Jeffers was perplexed after the game, unsure as to why his team could bust out exciting wins such as Saturday's or the finale comeback against the Yankees. The Twins won just those two in this six-game homestand.
"We're going to have to prove to everyone, including ourselves," Baldelli said, "that we're capable of sustaining the good play that we show at times."
The Twins are always waiting for that next opportunity, right after they squander what's in front of them. The upcoming six-game road trip could provide a lift, if a couple of key injured players return against beatable Seattle. But injury absences might be the least of this team's problems come July 30 and the trade deadline.
"I'm sure it's in the back of some guys' minds, that this roster might change soon," Jeffers said. "But we're trying our hardest to not make that true. We don't want to be sellers at the deadline. We want to be pushing back up there and getting back into the race."
Baldelli said all the team can do is focus on the now, which is to prepare, compete and win games. The future concerns are for the front office.
The past, how the preseason favorite became one of the worst in the league, is for no one.
There is no rewind button on this season. Only play.