Slumping Twins fall to Pittsburgh for 11th loss in 13 video games

Ducks on a pond and creatures of the night.

That’s how Rocco Baldelli described the Twins’ 11th loss in 13 games, a 6-2 defeat at the hands of the Pittsburgh Pirates at Target Field on Sunday.

The aquatic bird analogy was in reference to how the Twins keep leaving runners on base, with seven more stranded Sunday. The Dracula imagery was actually a statement of hope that the Twins are on the precipice of turning around their 7-13 season starting Monday in Cleveland.

“Guys need to get some sleep,” Baldelli said. “Guys need to not need to be waking up in the morning, rushing over to the ballpark every day.”

BOXSCORE: Pittsburgh 6, Twins 2

Typically, baseball players breeze into the stadium sometime around noon and enjoy a slow ramp-up to an evening game. But with the front end of this season’s schedule loaded with day games, it has instead forced players to wake up early and stress about fitting in all their warmups before early afternoon starts.

With night games Monday and Tuesday in Cleveland, Baldelli hopes his players’ schedules will normalize.

Then again, he also hoped that for the recent road swing through California, when COVID-19 issues postponed three games.

The unusual circumstances of this first month of the season might be a reason the Twins have struggled, particularly offensively. That lack of production, combined with intermittent snow squalls Sunday, nearly lulled the 9,396 fans at Target Field into a collective afternoon nap.

Only Detroit (7-15) has a worse record than the Twins in the majors.

Pittsburgh jumped ahead early in the first inning, scoring twice off Twins starter Matt Shoemaker. The Twins answered in the bottom of the inning with back-to-back base hits from Luis Arraez and Josh Donaldson before Byron Buxton singled Arraez home to make the score 2-1.

The Pirates ended up outhitting the Twins 12-7. Much of that damage came in a marathon seventh inning, when Pittsburgh got five hits and scored three runs off relievers Cody Stashak and Caleb Thielbar. Eighth-inning home runs from Pittsburgh’s Gregory Polanco and the Twins’ Nelson Cruz finished the scoring.

The Twins were 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position.

“The guys all have to understand we’re not going to get it all back on one swing or one at-bat,” Baldelli said of the team’s skid. “When we string those good quality at-bats that we’ve talked about for a long time over here, I mean going up there and just trying to hit a ball hard, looking for a good pitch to hit, knowing what you’re looking for, things like that.

“As a group, I don’t think we need to feel the pressure on an individual basis to get this thing done every inning, every time we go out there.”

Shoemaker rebounded from a rough outing at Oakland, where gave up five earned runs and four walks in 3 ⅓ innings; he lasted into the sixth Sunday, giving up six hits and two runs.

Pittsburgh called up Wil Crowe on Sunday and he started, pitching four innings of four-hit ball before four relievers polished off the Twins, who lost the last two games of the series after J.A. Happ’s near-no-hitter on Friday.

Of the Twins’ next 16 games, 12 are against AL Central teams.

“When negative things creep in your head, sometimes that can expand. You’ve got to nip that in the bud right there, stay positive,” Shoemaker said. “Winning solves everything. When you win, everything is fun.

“As long as we keep smiling, the guys in the clubhouse, we’re still all talking and having a good time, laughing. You have to keep that energy. Because when you get away from that, that’s when things can get worse.”

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