After swinging at a Sam Hentges breaking ball and coming up with nothing to strand a pair of baserunners, Gary Sánchez slammed his bat on the ground in frustration. It was that kind of weekend for the Twins, who entered a pivotal series against the Guardians trailing by 1½ games in the American League Central division and leave the series in much worse position.
After a 4-1 loss to the Guardians on Sunday, the Twins now trail Cleveland by 4½ games in the division — the White Sox sit in between the two teams — and with a 69-70 record are are now under .500 for the first time since April 23.
Sure, there’s technically still a chance the Twins could make the playoffs — they have five games remaining against Cleveland, six against Chicago — but things got much, much harder this weekend and their chances look slimmer than ever.
The Twins stumbled to 2-8 in the critical month of September, losing their sixth game of their past seven. They had few opportunities Sunday against Cleveland pitching ace Shane Bieber, who gave up one run on five hits in his 6 1/3 innings.
That one run came on a lucky bounce when a grounder Sánchez hit in the fifth inning bounced off the the top of the third base bag and ricocheted up for an infield hit, allowing Nick Gordon to score. Bieber allowed singles to the first two batters of the seventh inning, putting runners on the corners with no outs, but the Twins’ best opportunity of the day yielded nothing.
Cleveland’s offense didn’t break things open until the ninth inning, but thanks to a pair of solo home runs — Andrés Giménez in the second inning and Steven Kwan in the third — the Guardians held a lead for most of the day. Those were the only two runs that Josh Winder gave up in his return to the big leagues. It was his first start in the majors since July, and he gave up just the two runs on four hits in his start.