The Minnesota Twins are going down swinging, looking and without much of a fight.
Quickly fading out of the AL wild-card race, the offensively challenged Twins will try to get something started when they take on the surging Boston Red Sox in the opener of a three-game series.
Unless something changes dramatically, the Twins will be watching baseball in October. Minnesota has the pitching needed to win, but has not been able to generate much offense in the second half of the season.
The lack of hitting has played a huge roll in the Twins losing 11 of their last 14 games.
“I don’t know what it is,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We work hard … but when it comes to the game, it’s nothing.”
That’s the main reason why Minnesota’s streak of three straight division titles is all but over—and why the Twins’ chance to make the playoffs as a wild-card team suddenly looks almost as dire.
With their 5-2 loss to Oakland on Thursday, the Twins fell six games behind the A’s in the wild-card race. Meanwhile, the Chicago White Sox are running away with the AL Central.
“There’s nothing you can do but wait until everything goes back to where it used to be and we win some games,” left-hander Johan Santana said. “We hope everything is over with and we start putting things together, because … it’s getting late.”
In the first 22 games after the All-Star break, through Thursday, Minnesota scored only 72 runs—the second fewest in the league. During the same stretch, the Twins batted a paltry .180 with runners in scoring position. On a team without a hitter close to 20 home runs, that won’t get it done.
“Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us,” right fielder Jacque Jones said. “We’ve just got to be who we are, and that’s pretty good players who stick together. I come here at two o’clock every day, and almost all the hitters are here working. That’s a good sign.”
The Twins will certainly have to score some runs against the Red Sox.
The defending world champions have won a season-high eight straight games, including an 11-9 victory over Kansas City on Thursday. Jason Varitek hit a grand slam and had five RBIs for Boston, which leads the second-place New York Yankees by 4 1/2 games in the AL East.
Manny Ramirez, who leads the AL in home runs and RBIs, missed Thursday’s game due to blurry vision caused by a collision the previous night with teammate Edgar Renteria. Manager Terry Francona said there’s a chance Ramirez could play Friday night.
“If he is a little bit blurry or hazy or foggy, we’re not going to” let him play, Francona said. “I think there is a pretty good chance he will be OK.”