MINNEAPOLIS -- When the Minnesota Twins and St. Louis Cardinals begin their three-game series Friday night in St. Louis, there’s no telling what the Twins’ roster might look like or how many players might have been shipped off to contending teams by then.
Between Wednesday’s game and the next time the Twins hit the field, the 3 p.m. July 30 trade deadline will have come and gone. Before that time, the Twins are expected to make multiple moves, changing the complexion of their roster.
Over the course of their home series against Detroit, it hasn’t been difficult to see how the Twins got to this position. The Twins fell 17-14 to the Tigers on Wednesday afternoon, mounting a furious comeback attempt with two home runs apiece from Miguel Sanó and Ryan Jeffers — and seven total — that fell short as the Twins lost a game during which starter J.A. Happ gave up nine runs.
“It takes a little while to process when you play games like that. That was not your run-of-the-mill effort or game,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Our guys … dug down and grabbed everything they had and brought it out and we kept playing. At no point down 10-whatever it was, 10-1 or whatever it was, we never stopped playing the game and doing everything that we could to win the ballgame.”
Even when they were put in a hole early on.
Over the course of the season, Happ has been one of four free-agent pitching signings that have not panned out this season as the Twins (43-60) would have hoped. After lasting three innings (plus seven batters) on Wednesday, Happ now sports a 6.77 earned-run average. The veteran has now faced the Tigers (49-55) in three of his past four starts and given up three runs, seven runs and nine runs in those three games, respectively.
“To me, I’ve got to look it as a challenge facing a team three out of four times having to beat the same team,” Happ said. “I failed in that to kind of meet that challenge today. But they’ve been tough, at least for me personally.”
A day earlier, Hansel Robles, who was brought in this offseason, served up a game-tying grand slam to catcher Eric Haase in the ninth inning of an eventual extra-inning loss. Robles now has a 4.91 ERA. And in the first game of the series, Alexander Colomé, the Twins’ big bullpen acquisition, allowed a game-tying home run in the ninth inning of his own. His ERA is 4.86.
Matt Shoemaker, brought in along with Happ to fill out the rotation, was designated for assignment at the beginning of July and is now with the Triple-A Saints. He was sporting an ERA north of 8.00 and had been demoted to the bullpen by the time the Twins made the move.
In more than a few games this season, the Twins have put up enough runs to win but have not gotten the pitching to match, helping contribute to the situation the team now faces ahead of the trade deadline. On Wednesday, they kept clawing their way back but never led. Happ departed the game after facing seven batters in the fourth inning and retiring none of them. After him, Beau Burrows gave up four runs, as did Juan Minaya.
“It’s tough on the defensive side just not being able to hold them,” said Jeffers, who drove in six runs. “… It’s tough as a catcher and as a guy that wants my pitcher to succeed. Seeing (Happ) go out there and give it what he has; him, Burrows, Minaya, they were out there giving it what they’ve got. Today, the Tigers were putting really good swings on it and weren’t swinging too much out of the zone.”
In a lengthy fourth inning, the two teams combined to score 14 runs. After the Tigers scored eight, the Twins showed some fight, cutting into a 10-run deficit with five runs of their own. Sanó homered to lead off the inning and drove in another one during his second at-bat in the frame. In between that, Jeffers hit his first career grand slam.
In the eighth inning, Max Kepler and Brent Rooker hit back-to-back home runs for the second time in four days, and Sanó contributed his second home run of the game, a 473-foot shot that reached the third deck. Jeffers’ second homer of the day pulled the Twins back within one. That slim deficit was short lived.
The Twins gave up four more runs in the ninth as the Tigers broke away, hitting one more home run — a Jorge Polanco two-run shot — for good measure before it ended.
And like so many games before it, a good offensive effort wasn’t enough to overcome the pitching. And as a result, the roster is about to be shaken up.
“Any time you’re even having to contemplate subtracting from your group, guys that you care about and trust and you ultimately love them, it’s hard to even think about,” Baldelli said. “ … We know the reality of the situation. We are all adults and we’ll deal with it all head-on. Those are tough thoughts, though.”