Late error sinks Twins in loss to Tigers, losing streak hits five

Caleb Thielbar had gotten the first two batters of the ninth inning quickly. He was well on his way to getting the Twins off the field and back into the dugout with the score still tied with the Detroit Tigers in the ninth inning.

Or at least it seemed that way.

Almost as quickly as he got the first two outs, things unraveled for him.

The southpaw allowed a two-out single to Parker Meadows, who promptly reached second base when Thielbar threw the ball away trying to pick him off, an error that he called “inexcusable.”

Meadows would score the go-ahead run on a Wenceel Pérez hit, a single that sent the Twins plummeting to their fifth straight loss, this one a 5-4 defeat at Target Field.

“We’re not playing good baseball right now, and I’ve been a part of that two out of the last five games,” Thielbar said. “It’s tough. It weighs on me. It weighs on the guys in here. We’re trying to dig out of it, but it’s just not going well for us right now.”

With an offense that has been among the worst in Major League Baseball this season, Twins pitchers have had little wiggle room, and so when the Twins aren’t playing their crispest baseball, it gets magnified.

That was the case with both Thielbar’s play and earlier when the Twins (6-12) weren’t able to make a clean throw to get a runner at the plate in the first inning.

“We’re playing a lot of one-run type ballgames. We have to play clean,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “If we don’t play clean, we’re just going to hand baserunners and potentially runs to the opposition. We’re not in a position to be doing that right now.”

The Tigers (11-9) didn’t play particularly clean, either, allowing the Twins to hang around, despite them collecting just five hits. Two runs scored in the sixth inning when Pérez misplayed Ryan Jeffers’ hit and later in the inning, left fielder Kerry Carpenter couldn’t nab a ball Byron Buxton hit to left.

Buxton just missed a three-run home run, settling instead for a two-run double, though he didn’t hustle out of the box, appearing to believe it was a home run. He showed some frustration after reaching second base.

That tied the game up at four apiece.

Starter Joe Ryan, who dominated the Tigers a week ago, permitted four runs in his 5 1/3-inning outing, though for much of the night, he was getting beaten by bloop hits and weak contact.

Two of the four runs scored in the third inning on softly-hit balls, both of which came after a battle with Meadows in which the seventh pitch was ruled to be ball four, though the fastball appeared to be a strike. That call likely altered the course of the inning — and the game.

“I’m not blaming the umpire for that. It’s just frustrating,” Ryan said. “I guess it kind of goes with the bloop hits all day where it’s like that’s sometimes how it shakes out.”

All day and all year. The way things have been going for the Twins lately, perhaps it’s not so surprising that one more thing wasn’t on their side.

“It’s a hard game. We’ve had plenty of hard games so far in a short period of time,” Baldelli said. “We had plenty of opportunities to get stuff going and close out innings and play cleaner baseball. I sit there towards the end of the game and I’m like, well, there’s just a lot of things I can look at, and I think anyone watching the game can look at, that we can just do better and put ourselves in a better position to win.”