LOS ANGELES – A not-so-familiar image of last year’s Twins resurfaced at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday afternoon. The vision was of pitcher Emilio Pagán, crouching near the mound, hands clutching his knees in disbelief as a fly ball flew over the outfield fence.
For the first time this season, the Twins witnessed Pagán’s pose last Wednesday. The emotions attached to it are the same as before.
Asked to preserve the late lead, Pagán exploded. First, the reliever walked two batters and forced a tie. Then he served up a game-winning grand slam.
Coupled with more base-loading struggles from the offense and a trio of nagging injuries, the Twins quickly suffered their most traumatic loss of the season to date, falling 7-3 in Los Angeles.
Looking to get a series win against the vaunted Dodgers, the Twins lost instead and also suffered a serious injury: a broken shin for utilityman Nick Gordon. The club should know more Friday about the health of Jorge Polanco, who suffered a mild left hamstring strain, and Joey Gallo, who left with a right shin contusion after fouling out in a pitch of his leg.
But afterward, the blow received by James Outman’s grand slam with two outs in the seventh served as a powerful wound of its own.
“I felt like I made some good pitches early and then lost the feeling of what I was trying to do,” Pagàn said. “The cutter is bad. Got some bad numbers and then made a really big mistake. It doesn’t matter what I’ve been doing lately. Now, I don’t have it.”
There are limited opportunities in prime areas for Pagán to “own” at this time.
Although the Twins brought him back on a one-year, $3.5 million deal, Pagán has largely been cast in a low-leverage role this season, the result of a 4-6 record with a 4.43 ERA and seven whiffs. that save attempt of 16 attempt at. 2022.
Pagàn’s 2022 struggles included giving up 12 homers in 63 innings, the fourth consecutive full season in which he allowed double-digit homers. He also finished with the 22nd-worst combined winning percentage among all relievers (minus-0.99).
Only four of Pagán’s 17 appearances this season were considered high leverage. Most of his assignments come in blowouts or when the team is trailing. Overall, he has pitched well of late, posting a 0.96 ERA since April 26 with 11 strikeouts and two walks in 9 1/3 innings pitched.
But with the absence of Griffin Jax and Brock Stewart and the desire to use Jorge López and Jhoan Duran for only one inning after each made multi-inning appearances Monday, the Twins will need more from Pagán.
He entered with the Twins leading 3-2 and two outs in the seventh, replacing José De Leòn, who allowed a pair of singles after retiring five consecutive batters.
Although he had several close pitches where a left field led to a called ball, Pagán walked Jason Heyward on six pitches to load the bases. The outing moved quickly from there.
Only one of the five balls thrown during Miguel Vargas’ walk forced in the tying run in the distant contest. And the next pitch Pagán threw landed past the wall in center, with the pitcher in his familiar crouch near the mound.
“I thought it was a good spot for (Pagán) to get out there and attack guys,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “It didn’t happen the way we wanted. … We threw a bad pitch, and their guy put a good swing on the ball.”
JAMES OUTMAN WILL BE THERE. pic.twitter.com/45hbKxqwvr
– Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) May 17, 2023
Pagán looked to find his first-pitch fastball to Outman in the zone. Instead he pulled it down and into the hitter’s nitro zone.
“After the Heyward at-bat, I didn’t throw well,” Pagán said. “Obviously, I’m trying to get back in the zone there; he knows that. Still feel like if I get it to the end of the zone, I’ve got a good shot at lazy contact. It just didn’t get there.”
The Twins offense didn’t do its part either. An offense trending in the right direction was presented with a prime opportunity when opposing starter Dustin May exited after one inning with a sore elbow, straining a beleaguered Dodgers bullpen. to cover eight innings.
After scoring just twice against long reliever Dylan Covey on homers by Byron Buxton and Gallo, the Twins found themselves with the bases loaded and no outs in the sixth inning with the score tied at 2.
For most teams, the bases loaded and no outs is an attractive position. For Gemini, it’s like toxic mud.
Singles by Alex Kirilloff and Carlos Correa and a Buxton walk put Covey out of the game. Left reliever Victor González took over and Polanco struck out, striking out pinch hitter Donovan Solano and getting Kyle Farmer to fly out.
“We just swung at a couple of pitched balls out of the zone,” Polanco said. “I think we will get better.” We just need to swing at better pitches. “
Anything could be more productive than what the Twins have put up in their first 44 games.
Not only were they 0-for-7 with the bases loaded and no outs, but they were also 5-for-40 overall with the bases loaded. The situation was so dire that Baldelli volunteered an answer on the subject in his postgame media session before a single question was even asked.
“I don’t have an answer for the bases-loaded conversation,” Baldelli said. “I don’t think anyone. … I’m making it easy here, but we just have to get on with it. If you keep at it, a lot of good things can happen. It doesn’t have to be a big swing. That part, yes, is hard – and hard to swallow. Disappointing, of course. But a game we can definitely win.”
A lot of damage was done to the Twins
Pagán’s gopher ball was just the beginning of a bad day for the Twins.
After they returned to the clubhouse, the Twins learned that Gordon had broken his right collarbone when he was fouled by a pitch during a fourth-inning strikeout. Gordon is expected to be placed on the injured list on Friday.
“He’s going to be out for a while,” Baldelli said. “Sad.”
Polanco could also land in IL. The second baseman reported feeling tightness in his left hamstring and exited in the bottom of the seventh.
With Polanco recently recovering from a knee injury that cost him a combined 58 games between this season and last season, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Twins chose to be cautious of one of their most valuable bats.
“It’s pretty tight right now,” Polanco said. “What happened to me last year, I realized more. … I didn’t want it to get worse, so I just told them, ‘I feel the tightness.’ And I’ll take care of it.”
Polanco plans to rest his hamstring during the team’s day off on Thursday and see how it feels on Friday. The same goes for Gallo, who exited after a pitch fouled his right shin in the ninth.
— Bally Sports North (@BallySportsNOR) May 17, 2023
The negative X-ray was a sigh of relief for Gallo, who feared the worst when his shin immediately began to swell.
“At least it’s not broken, so it’s good,” said Gallo. “The X-ray looks good. … That’s probably the worst I’ve fouled the ball off my ankle since I’ve played. When (Baldelli) came out, it just swelled up in my pants, so they were like, ‘We might want to be careful with this and see what happens.’
With the Twins facing two left-handed pitchers this weekend in Anaheim, Kyle Garlick could be used as a backup for Gordon. If Polanco loses to IL, the Twins could turn to rookie Edouard Julien, who homered twice in his first outing last month.
Twins prospect Royce Lewis is on the 60-day IL and will not be available to be activated until May 29.
(Photo: Gary A. Vasquez / USA Today)