MINNEAPOLIS —The Twins’ quest to pull themselves out of the American League Central basement took a small hit on Sunday, Sept. 12.
Not that the difference between fourth and fifth place matters all that much at this point, of course. Their reward for pulling themselves out of last place would be, after all, slightly worse draft positioning.
But the Twins’ goals for the remainder of the season center around winning as many games as they can and getting a look at some younger players in the process, and on Sunday, while accomplishing one of those two things, the Twins fell 5-3 Kansas City at Target Field, moving them to two games behind the fourth-place Royals.
“It was kind of a game where we hung around, we kept it close enough for it to be a good, tight ballgame,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We didn’t do it by pitching and playing a great ballgame.”
The Twins (63-80) weren’t particularly sharp on the mound Sunday, and they didn’t hit much in an uninspiring loss. Their offense was held mostly silent, finishing the day with just six hits. They went 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position, the one hit a Brent Rooker double with the bases loaded to tie the game 3-3 in the sixth inning.
Starter Bailey Ober gave up three runs in his 4 1/3 inning start, throwing 75 pitches, an uptick from the 59 pitches he threw in his last start. Ober got 16 whiffs in the game, including eight swing and misses on his four-seamer.
“I think things went OK for me,” Ober, who at one point retired nine straight batters, said. “… I felt like I was able to throw some pretty good offspeed pitches today and get them to chase out of the zone.”
He departed after giving up a pair of singles in the fifth, and in came Jovani Moran, who was called up on Saturday. Moran, a potential bullpen piece for the Twins moving into the future, allowed a double that Whit Merrifield dropped into right just fair, allowing the inherited runner to score.
The rest of his outing saw him walk a pair of batters and strike out two in his 1 1/3-inning debut.
The 24-year-old lefty is the Twins’ No. 26 prospect per MLB Pipeline, and had posted a 2.41 earned-run average between Double-A Wichita and Triple-A St. Paul. Moran had a 0.89 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) in the minors this season.
“He’s a guy who’s very promising. He’s a guy we expect some very good things from going forward. It was good to get him out there, get him in the action,” Baldelli said. “We knew going into today’s ballgame he was going to pitch, whether we were down, up, tied, whatever. He was going to be in there. And now his feet are wet and he can go and get some work done.”
Kansas City wound up breaking away in the later innings, scoring a run in both the eighth and ninth off relievers Jorge Alcala and Juan Minaya as the Royals (65-78) secured the series win in Minneapolis.
“Some guys, their line in the box score might look a little better than others from today,” Baldelli said. “But the truth of the matter is, I think everyone we had on the mound kind of battled a little bit, weren’t really locating or making the pitches that they wanted to. Sometimes we still got outs and got through it. Sometimes we didn’t. We could have pitched better but we really didn’t put the runs on the board to really make it more of a discussion.”