SEATTLE (AP)—That Minnesota Twins’ joyride that landed them in the thick of a pennant race is starting to grind—just when it needs to soar.
“I don’t think we have enough energy or are playing with enough enthusiasm,” Twins first baseman Justin Morneau said. “We’re not making anything happen right now. We’re just hoping. We’ve got to make things happen, not sit back.”
And not fall back much more.
Minnesota repeatedly failed to move runners over and get them in while falling to two games behind the first-place Chicago White Sox in the AL Central. That’s the Twins’ largest deficit since play began on July 27. They are also 2 1/2 games behind Boston in the AL wild-card standings.
They are 2-4 on their 14-game road trip, an increasingly ominous trek prompted by the Republican National Convention coming to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.
“It’s the simple things: sac flies, moving runners over,” Morneau said in a hushed clubhouse. “We are beating ourselves.
“These are games we should win.”
The latest two losses have come against the AL’s worst team, which had lost eight of nine games before Minnesota arrived. Now the Mariners have a three-game winning streak, tying their season high.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire tried to keep the clubhouse atmosphere light, joking with a television technician and teasing reliever Eddie Guardado. But Gardenhire hinted his young, surprising team may be doing the opposite of Morneau thinks: trying too hard.
“We’re fighting it a little bit, trying too much,” he said. “But they are pitching pretty well against us, too.”
Ryan Rowland-Smith (3-2), a converted reliever and native of Australia, allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings for his first win as a major league starter. It was Minnesota’s first loss against a left-handed starter in 11 games, since Lee beat them last month.
Corcoran, up and down from the minor leagues for four years, pitched the final two scoreless innings for his first save in his 53rd career game because closer J.J. Putz had been up or used eight times in 10 days. Putz began warming up Tuesday, too, before manager Jim Riggleman called down to the bullpen to tell his 2007 All-Star to sit down.
“It’s a good feeling (and) a good feeling for the whole team in here,” Corcoran said. “It’s been a rough year.”
Rowland-Smith entered the sixth with a 2-0 lead, but the Twins tied the game on a double play grounder and a solo home run.
The home run was hit by 30-year-old Ruiz. Hours after being named the International League Rookie of the Year, Ruiz flicked his bat at an 0-1 pitch that was low and away and sent it four rows into the right-field bleachers for his first career home run.
“Feels great, but I’m really down right now because we lost,” Ruiz said. “We had a runner at second there and no outs. I should have been up there moving him over.”
Adrian Beltre, who won Monday night’s 11-inning game with a home run, missed another one off Scott Baker (7-4) by about a foot off the top of the wall in the left-field corner leading off the bottom of the sixth. Raul Ibanez followed that double with a single before Lopez hit a sharp single to score Beltre and put Seattle ahead 3-2.
Baker allowed three runs and a season-high 10 hits in 6 2-3 innings, with three strikeouts and three walks.
He said he and his teammates may be starting to feel the squeeze of a pennant race.
“We need to remember why we’re doing this, for fun,” Baker said.
“I wouldn’t say they are must-win games yet, but it’s getting pretty close.”
Riggleman said the much-awaited starting debut of converted reliever Brandon Morrow is scheduled to come during a series Sept. 5-7, against the New York Yankees. The fifth overall pick in 2006 is at Triple-A Tacoma making the conversion. … Baker has one win in eight starts since the All-Star break. … Even though he had one of his best starts of an otherwise dreadful season Monday, RHP Miguel Batista will not be in Seattle’s rotation the next time around. LHP Jarrod Washburn, RHP Felix Hernandez and RHP Carlos Silva, in a return from the DL, will pitch in the weekend series at Cleveland. … Newly minted gold medalist Sue Bird of the United States women’s basketball team and the WNBA’s Seattle Storm threw out the ceremonial first pitch.