Twins takeaways as they’re bashed out of Baltimore and losses continue to pile up

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Twins takeaways as they’re bashed out of Baltimore and losses continue to pile up

BALTIMORE — The sound of defeat emanating from the Minnesota Twins’ clubhouse these days is difficult to ignore.

“The margin of error is very thin,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said.

“There’s a lot of tension and pressure that everybody’s put on themselves right now,” reliever Griffin Jax said.

“Everyone’s trying,” starter Pablo López said. “Just some things are not falling into place.”

“When you have these slower starts, guys start to tense up and everyone wants to fix it,” hitting coach David Popkins said.

Those were several of the statements made following another tough-to-swallow defeat to the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday afternoon. Following two one-sided defeats, the Twins saw a winnable contest slip away in the series finale.

Ahead by a run for an instant, the Twins were bashed out of Baltimore. The bullpen couldn’t hold onto a slim lead provided by a depleted offense for the second time in four days and the Orioles finished off a three-game sweep of the Twins with a 4-2 victory courtesy of Cedric Mullins’ walk-off homer off Jax.

Instead of emerging from a difficult road trip with a palatable 3-4 record, the Twins lost for the fifth time in seven tries and limp home with a 6-11 mark. In defense of their third American League Central title in five years, the Twins’ start is, well, indefensible.

“We know offensively we have to do better,” Baldelli said. “We have to put runs on the board. It’s really difficult to win when you’re scoring only a few runs. … It’s a challenge right now.”

Here are several takeaways from the team’s series sweep in Baltimore.

• The injuries the Twins are currently experiencing are exceptionally deep, limiting and have them in a spot where they must outpitch opponents. With Carlos Correa, Royce Lewis, Max Kepler and even prospect Brooks Lee absent, and many others not producing, scoring runs feels like an almost impossible task.

The Twins must pitch themselves to wins and try to stay afloat until the rest of the group gets going and key contributors return.

In Kepler’s case, that could be within a few days as he’s starting a rehab assignment with Triple-A St. Paul on Thursday. Correa received good news on Sunday that his injury is an intercostal strain versus an oblique, but there’s no word yet on when he could return. And Lewis still has another three weeks of rest and strengthening his quad to ensure it properly heals.

Any team losing three of its top four hitters from the previous season would be in a difficult spot. The Twins are living proof. Through 17 games, they’re hitting .193/.281/.330. Woof.

Popkins admits hitters are pressing. He wants them to know they’ve been here before. Last season, the Twins were horrid in the first half and then finished 10th in runs scored.

“You’ve just got to get back to just understanding it’s a very long season and we’re at mile two of this marathon,” he said.

•  Winning games like Wednesday’s contest is essential. The Twins managed it that way and probably will have to until the offense rebounds. Whether it was an aggressive send by third-base coach Tommy Watkins of Manny Margot, who scored from first on a single, or Baldelli going to his bullpen with nine outs left, the Twins could find themselves managing for wins and potentially chasing others in the early part of the season. It’s not an easy position to be in and at times can feel desperate.

On Wednesday, that led to Baldelli removing López after 87 pitches with the team’s ace on a roll, having set down 18 of 19 batters after surrendering a leadoff homer to Gunnar Henderson. Baldelli opted for what has been a very reliable bullpen to date, but admitted it wasn’t a no-brainer.

“Probably not the easiest call, probably right on the line,” he said. “But when you get a start like that from someone, where we’re at in the order and you factor in a whole bunch of things, I wanted to go to the bullpen right there and let them go get it done.”

For the second time since Sunday, they did not. Steven Okert took over and yielded a game-tying homer to Anthony Santander and two singles. Brock Stewart kept the score tied into the ninth before the Orioles did damage against Jax.

“It’s still April, and there’s a lot of time to make up some room,” Jax said. “But when you look around and there’s a lot of key guys missing, a lot of guys may be, myself included, trying to do too much at times and pick up those roles. … I’ve just got to go back to how I feel most comfortable and what I need to do to be ready to go every single day.”

•  After playing a tough schedule early, the Twins get a bit of a break over the next two weeks, which should afford them some room to stay afloat. First up are the improved Detroit Tigers for three at home before seven meetings with the sad-sack Chicago White Sox wrapped around three against the sub-.500 Los Angeles Angels.

While it’s a nice break, it won’t mean anything unless the Twins improve their level of execution. If we’re having this same conversation on May 1, well, that would not be good.

(Photo of Edouard Julien after striking out: Tony Quinn / Sipa via AP Images)