Yankees sweep Minnesota as lethargy, outfield mistakes prove costly: 3 Twins takeaways


MINNEAPOLIS — Colonoscopies. Paying your taxes. Getting a cavity filled.

All of those activities are about on par with how much joy the Minnesota Twins provided their fans this week when playing the New York Yankees. Playing the team that drives fans mad, the Twins produced some of their least compelling baseball of the season.

A largely uncompetitive series concluded Thursday afternoon with the Yankees shutting out the Twins 5-0 in front of 31,569 at Target Field. After scoring a run in their first at-bat of the series on a Ryan Jeffers solo home run on Tuesday, the Twins didn’t score again in the series.

Here are three Twins takeaways from the three-game drubbing.

All-around lethargy

Though Chris Paddack wasn’t very good in the opener, the team’s starting pitching did its part to keep the Twins hanging around in all three contests. Pablo López had a workmanlike effort on Wednesday, limiting New York to three runs and 10 hits over 6 1/3 innings. Joe Ryan deserved better in Thursday’s finale, allowing four earned runs and six hits. A first-inning defensive lapse cost him two runs.

But everything else was unimaginably bad and the complete opposite of how the Twins played the previous 20 games, a span in which they went 17-3.

Consider: The team went 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position and takes a 26-inning scoreless streak into Cleveland. Jeffers started the series with a leadoff homer off Carlos Rodón and Yankees pitchers recorded the next 81 outs without surrendering a run.

“That’s the beauty of baseball, right?” shortstop Carlos Correa said. “You can go from being the best team in baseball for two weeks and then you can absolutely suck for three days. You’ve just got to go out there and find a way to move on and perform the next day.”

While the Twins made a fair amount of hard contact in losses on Tuesday and Wednesday, they looked lost in the series finale against Clarke Schmidt. The Twins finished with only four balls hit 95 mph or better and finished with 16 swings and misses against Schmidt, who completed eight scoreless innings to lower his ERA to 2.49.

“(Thursday) was just a day where we got pitched well and didn’t have the answers,” Baldelli said. “Today, was the day they weren’t good enough to win the game.”

Next up is a big three-game series against the first-place Guardians.

Said Correa: “Can’t forget about the way we played. We didn’t play good baseball at all, and you’ve got to be able to, as a team, take accountability in a lot of things we did wrong and fix them for next series. At the same time, we’ve got to flush out the fact that we lost the three games.”

This series occurred against a high-profile team whose decades-long dominance brings out the worst in Minnesota and tends to lead to massive overreactions. On the plus side, though it was three days of horrendous baseball, the Twins can immediately right that wrong with a good series in Ohio.

Outfield defense atrocious again

The outfield miscues in the first two games of the series were egregious. Thursday’s was simply a bad play.

Though it was inexplicably ruled a double, Alex Kirilloff had more than enough time to track down Gleyber Torres’ deep drive to left-center in the first inning. When he got to the warning track, Kirilloff stutter-stepped and the ball clanked off his glove for a run-scoring extra-base hit. The Yankees tacked on another run on a RBI groundout by Anthony Rizzo to take what proved to be an insurmountable three-run lead.

“We were pretty far off this series for three straight days,” Baldelli said. “We came into this series off of a month of pretty spectacular play all the way around. I didn’t kind of recognize much of what I was watching over the last three days. … No one in our clubhouse kind of recognizes what just went on over the last 27 innings.”

In Tuesday’s game, Twins outfielders looked out of sorts. Willi Castro and Austin Martin both threw to the wrong base, which allowed aggressive Yankees runners to twice take an extra 90 feet. Castro also misread a shallow fly ball and then didn’t retrieve it quickly enough, which yielded an additional 90 feet.

It only got worse Wednesday when Castro lost count of the outs, which allowed an easy bases-loaded sac fly. There’s no saying whether Castro had a chance at throwing the runner out at the plate, but forgetting how many outs there were was a bad look.

The Twins should get a reset with the return of Byron Buxton, who should rejoin the team in Cleveland. Buxton played seven innings in a rehab game at Triple A on Wednesday and is scheduled to be St. Paul’s designated hitter on Thursday night.

Managing Castro’s miscue

Following his mental mistake Tuesday, Castro surprised teammates with an uncharacteristic reaction, firing the baseball to the top of the stadium and hitting a soft drink advertisement. Later in the game, Castro made a poor read on an Aaron Judge laser that went over his head for a double.

Rather than pull Castro, Baldelli stuck with his player, citing a history of goodwill built. Sensing that Castro knew he erred, Baldelli not only didn’t bench the team’s utility man, he started him at third base on Thursday.

“We know what’s underneath the surface with him as a person and as a player,” Baldelli said. “It hasn’t been easy for him the last couple of days. I don’t think he’s felt like himself. He’s a big team-oriented guy, so I’m sure he feels like he’s letting people down. But he gives a lot to us and we believe in him and I believe in him.”

The decision to not pull Castro rankled some fans following Wednesday’s game. Baldelli’s reasoning drew some criticism, too.

But one of the sixth-year manager’s strengths is his feel for the clubhouse and his players. Baldelli’s even-keeled nature has largely prevented him from ripping players publicly during his time as the team’s manager. His rip list over the years is short and calculated: Max Kepler last June for overall poor play, Ryan last summer for hiding an injury, and Gilberto Celestino in 2022 for overall play.

Baldelli picks and chooses his spots and it’s a key reason he hasn’t yet lost the clubhouse, not amid their constant struggles throughout the team’s first 91 games in 2023, nor when they got off to a 7-13 start this season.

Instead of publicly airing out Castro — who plays everywhere and has a 110 OPS+ and 3.7 bWAR in a season-plus with the Twins — Baldelli spoke to him after Tuesday’s game. Castro responded by going 1-for-4 on Wednesday with another hit taken away.

“He obviously told me he was thinking about taking me out, but he said he wasn’t going to do that,” Castro said. “I really appreciate that. To be honest, I don’t know what I was thinking. I thought it was three outs. It’s the first time that’s happened to me. … Probably my first time I’ve been really frustrated.”

(Photo of Willi Castro: Abbie Parr / Associated Press)

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