ANAHEIM, CALIF. – If Saturday night's loss was a blowup, Sunday's matinee mishap was the fizzle and eventual snuff.
Despite taking an early lead off Byron Buxton's two-run homer, the Twins never really looked convincingly like winning the series. So when Max Kepler struck out to end a 4-2 loss to the Angels, making the Twins a lip-curling 1-4 during this Southern California road trip, it really just felt predictable.
Dropping 10-3 and 8-5 at the Dodgers earlier in the week was painful to watch but not altogether surprising, given that team has the majors' best record at 79-34. The Angels are not that — a distant fourth in the AL West with a 51-64 record.
And yet the Twins won 4-0 Friday, only to squander a three-run lead Saturday and lose 5-3 in 11 innings.
But manager Rocco Baldelli was hesitant to look at the time in Orange County as a missed opportunity.
"I can't think of it quite like that," Baldelli said, mentioning how Anaheim had good pitching and timely hitting when his team did not. "… You can't just say it's all going to even out. We've got to find ways to do it. We're working on that.
"… Our goals this year have not changed one bit. We're still right in the middle of things right now. We have to start today. We have to start tomorrow. And get back on track to where we need to be to make these games consequential. We want to play consequential games. We want to go to the playoffs. We want to do all these things."
The Twins made negative progress on those aspirations this week, though. At 58-55, they are now tied with the White Sox for second in the AL Central, 2½ games back from Cleveland, also two games back in the wild card race.
Twins starter Chris Archer, who gave up a two-run double to Luis Rengifo in the third inning and a sacrifice fly to Kurt Suzuki in his final fourth inning, said the Twins felt more together playing at home ahead of this road trip, where inconsistency across the board took hold. So returning to Target Field on Monday against the Royals might help the Twins reestablish momentum.
But considering how the Twins managed to do little against four lefthanded starters this week and that there's an unusual uptick in them this upcoming stretch, that might not be the easiest task. Kyle Garlick, who specializes in hitting against lefties, is injured because of a rib issue and isn't tracking to return soon. And between Saturday's and Sunday's losses at the Angels — against lefty starters Reid Detmers and Tucker Davidson — the Twins were 0-for-18 with runners in scoring position.
"Man, we just want to get hot. If we get hot, a lot of things are different. Tough stretch of games right there. Just a tough road trip," Nick Gordon said. "… This game evens out. It'll happen. We've had some bad luck. Hopefully we run into good luck here soon."
Twins reliever Michael Fulmer gave up the final Angels run in the seventh, when three consecutive hits ended with a Shohei Ohtani RBI single. But despite the defeats and growing distance in the standings, the Twins still professed confidence in each other, from the offense to the pitching to the chemistry in the clubhouse.
"You go through tough stretches like this, puts a little bit more pressure on you. 'It's got to happen' rather than just going up there and having fun with pitching, whatever it may be," Buxton said. "… Everybody's got a different way of getting back on track. Whatever that may be, we just don't need to press and keep pounding ourselves in the dirt. There's a lot of us that's doing that quite a bit right now just because we're not getting the job done and probably getting ourselves in a little bit more of a hole for our next at-bats.
"That ain't who we were at the beginning of the season."
And the Twins will hope it's not who they will continue to be at the end.