Bats quiet as Twins drop series finale 2-0 to Guardians

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CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Guardians started their day at the plate by ambushing Twins pitcher Joe Ryan, three of the first four hitters reaching base with singles.

In those first at-bats, they did something that the Twins couldn’t do all series: score a run that did not come via the longball. On Sunday, the Twins’ slumping offense didn’t even do that. Their franchise-record 18-day home-run streak came to an end in a 2-0 loss to the Guardians in the series finale at Progressive Field.

“Everyone is trying really hard to get it done and they’re kind of expanding and getting outside of themselves a little bit because everyone wants to get it done really bad,” Twins hitting coach David Popkins said.

But wanting and doing are two different things, and on Sunday, the Twins (19-16) could do little at the plate against Cal Quantrill, who retired 16 straight batters before Alex Kirilloff sent his first hit of the season out to right field with two outs in the seventh inning. It was the Twins’ only hit in the game.

Kirilloff said he was surprised to find out that the Twins didn’t have a hit at that point — they had struck some balls well and had some baserunners on earlier in the game — so it didn’t necessarily feel to him that Quantrill was flirting with history.

He was, thanks to another difficult day for the Twins lineup, which finished the series having scored just five home runs. Those home runs came on pair of Max Kepler blasts and one from Carlos Correa.

“We didn’t swing the bats real good today,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “… I try to keep it simple: We’ve got to swing at strikes and we’ve got to try to swing at strikes that are more in the middle of the zone than on the outskirts and edges of the zone. He threw everything today. I think he threw a lot of pitches that were very hittable.”

Not for the Twins, who squandered yet another bases-loaded, no-out opportunity in the second inning, their best chance of the day. Quantrill hit Byron Buxton with a pitch to lead off the inning before walking Kirilloff and Joey Gallo. But the Twins’ woes with the bases loaded reared their head again when Jose Miranda popped up to short and Nick Gordon followed by grounding into a 4-6-3 double play. The Twins are hitting a paltry .154 in such situations and have a league-worst .336 OPS with the bases loaded.

Gallo, who drew a pair of walks on Sunday, finished the road trip hitless, part of an 0-for-23 stretch. Miranda has two hits in his past 21 at-bats. In the first series of the road trip, Trevor Larnach went 0 for 9 with eight strikeouts before being optioned to Triple-A on Friday. And the list goes on.

“A lot of it is reminding them of their approach, ‘Hey, what are you looking for up there? What are you hunting up there?’ Turning them to a more attack mindset than a reactive mindset,” Popkins said.

Ryan, meanwhile, recovered from a shaky first inning during which he allowed a pair of runs and settled in nicely. He allowed eight hits to the Guardians (16-18) in his start — all but one a single — but only three after the first inning, completing six innings.

But with no offensive support, Ryan took his first loss of the season in the Twins’ fourth defeat of their six-game swing through Chicago and Cleveland. It’s a loss that sends them into a day off that Baldelli said he believes could provide a good “mental reset,” for his team.

“I think the stress of not hitting sometimes is as bad as any part of not hitting, and it allows things to spiral a little bit, so you kind of have to balance being determined and working hard towards getting right and feeling better. But also you can’t screw yourself into the ground, either, so you’ve got to find a way to balance that and keep the guys with their heads up and keep them going,” Baldelli said. “We’ve got a long way to go.”

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