The Minnesota Twins entered the second half of the season on a 10-game homestand with hopes that they could keep their team together and compete for a Wild Card spot in the American Leagueafter going 5-2 on the road before the All-Star Break.
Quotes are edited for brevity and clarity..
Game 1: Tampa Bay 6, Minnesota 2
Manager Ron Gardenhire: We’re chasing, and it’s pretty easy to see: we can go one way or another. We need to pick up from where we left off, we had a nice road trip, but still we’re under .500 in the first half of the season. So we’ve got to work our way to .500 and go from there, and it starts right here at home.
We got a nice 10-game homestand inside our division for seven of them, and that’s where it all starts. We’ve gotta start playing better at home and hopefully win on this homestand, and then go from there.
General Manager Terry Ryan: It’s pivotal. We’re already six games below .500 -- that’s a long way to .500 at this juncture of the season. I would say this is an important time.
It isn’t going to make a season, but it certainly is going to affect the trade deadline.
We can’t afford to keep dropping back. We’re at a point now where there’s a lot of ground to be made up, and we’ve got to start making up some ground here. We can’t keep going back.
Gardenhire: The players are talking about trying to keep this thing together. That’s a normal conversation after the All-Star Break for every team. They don’t want to lose their teammates, and they all know it goes to how we play on the field, and that’s the bottom line. Whether we’ve done good enough to make that happen or not, it’s only upstairs.
Yes, it’s great to want to go out and keep everyone here, they’re all good buddies and everything, but we’ve got to go out and win baseball games, and whatever it takes to get this organization in the right shape, in the right place, that’s what’s going to happen.
All we can do is worry about going and playing. We’ve got to go play; we’ve got to go win baseball games. Normally it takes care of a lot of stuff if you just keep winning.
Ryan: I’m glad to hear that they’re saying that, that’s good, because they like what we’ve got in terms of talent, they think we’re heading in the right direction, it sounds like. But it’s not like it’s the front office [shakes hand high] and the players [shakes hand low] -- we’re in this together. We want to do what’s right. We all would like to be better, and we’d all like to have a better record, and we’d all like to be closer to the playoff teams, but we’re not right now, and we have to be if we expect to hold the group together.
Hopefully we do play well in the next 10 games and maybe string together (some wins). We did a nice job prior to the break. We had a nice little run, and we had a good road trip.
Trevor Plouffe’s two-run home run was all the offense Minnesota would get that night. Tampa Bay struck early with a three-run third and Gibson went 6 1/3 innings but gave up six runs for the second time in three starts.
Gardenhire: [Gibson] hung in there. He had a couple big innings.
The first three runs, the tapper back to the mound, which is probably a double play if he doesn’t tip it, but instincts tell you to try and catch the ball. That ball was probably going to Doze [second baseman Brian Dozier] for a double play.
And then he gets a ball up to Longoria off the wall, and there’s your first three points.
And then Zobrist, he got behind him and threw a 2-1 slider and then tried to throw a fastball away, but he threw it right down the middle. And that’s a situation where he’s got a base open. He just misfired one and the guy hit it in the seats, and that’s his five runs, really.
He hung in there, but two big innings got him.
Starting pitcher Kyle Gibson: Really I got beat by three, four pitches tonight.
If I field my position there in the third inning, we get a double play. And it turns out if I let the ball go, Dozier’s right there up the middle on the shift, it’s a double play and defense gets me out of the inning. And then I leave a 2-0 fastball down the middle to Longoria. And then I ended up doing the same
thing to Zobrist later on: 3-1, good hitter, can’t leave a pitch right down the middle in that situation.
Game 2: Tampa Bay 5, Minnesota 1
Ryan: Last night was disappointing. We only had six hits. We didn’t have good damage control; they put up the crooked number. It just was not a good game for us to start the second [half] right after the break.
We have got to do a better job -- we just did not put many good at-bats together last night. Certainly Kyle had the guy driving the ball off the wall, and it just doesn’t work. So it gets right back to execution and taking advantage of situations and damage control and all that kind of stuff, and that’s what I look for.
Last night wasn’t good. It never seemed like we were in that game. We need to do better than that.
Gardenhire: The names are here (for the upcoming game). Hughesy had a great first half for us and is throwing well, and we all know Mr. Price (starting pitcher David Price). If they pitch up to their capabilities, it could be a tough night for the hitters. Hopefully we’ll find a way to scratch something off of him and Hughesy will give us a good opportunity.
We all know that you don’t want to give up too many runs early against a guy like [Price] because he can get a lead and run. But going in there, we’ve seen him before, and if you’re competitive, you like this sort of thing. You like to face the good pitchers, just not too many of them in a row, and he’s a good one.
We’ll see who executes. That’s what it comes down to tonight: If he executes his pitches, he’s really tough.
Hughes gave up five runs in seven innings, including three in the second. Price only gave up four hits, and no runs, in eight.
Gardenhire: Three points early and we all know that guy pitching, we want to stay even with that guy; you don’t want to give him runs, and you saw what he can do. Price was unbelievable. He had great stuff tonight with all of his pitches, and he pretty much dominated us.
Hughesy gave up three, but actually hung in there pretty good and gave us an opportunity to get back into the game; we just weren’t able to do it. He didn’t have much, it looked like, early in the game, but he found a way to get through some innings for us, which is very important. And he gave us an opportunity to get back in there, but of course Price didn’t give us much of a chance.
Starting pitcher Phil Hughes: I battled as best I could.
I didn’t really have much to work with tonight and kinda had to make some pitches in some sequences in situations where I normally wouldn’t have done that because I knew right off the bat that I didn’t have much. Three-run second, you put yourself in a hole against one of the league’s best, so that was obviously the difference.
It’s tough. You come into a series after the break, and you want to get off on the right foot and a couple nights in a row where our starters didn’t do the job.
Third baseman Trevor Plouffe: It’s two games, man. It’s two games against two tough pitchers. There’s nothing that we’re going to do different, we’re going to work as hard as we’ve been working, and just try to get more guys on and get those hits with runners in scoring position, good timely hitting. That’s all you can do.
It’s a long season, and we’ll come back and win this next game and then go into the next series against Cleveland and try to win that.
Game 3: Tampa Bay 5, Minnesota 3
Ryan: It’s not the way we would write it up. This hasn’t been good. We talked about Price and how important that game against [starting pitcher Alex] Cobb was, and we didn’t get that, and then we have to face Price, and this guy is no slouch today. He’s pretty good as well.
This hasn’t started out the way we had hoped or planned, but we’ve gotta regroup here and figure out a way to grind out a couple at-bats here. Our starting pitching gave up the long ball. That didn’t help any either. Once you get in a hole, like yesterday, you could feel that it just wasn’t a good feeling.
Yeah, this isn’t the way we had planned it.
We aren’t even .500; we’re a long way from .500 (44-52), frankly.
We have a fair idea of what we’re doing, where we’re at and who’s ahead of us. We’ve got a lot of clubs to jump through. Without coming out and saying it, until we get to .500, we’re not exactly where we want to be at this juncture in the season. We’re not at .500, in fact, we’re way below .500. That’s not a good spot to be in.
Gardenhire: I haven’t even looked at any of that (in reference to being at 999 career losses before the game). I don’t think it’s going to happen [in jest]. We’re gonna win the rest of our games.
I’m gonna say the same thing about 1000 wins as I will about 1000 losses, it means you’ve been managing a long time and you’re getting old.
I’ve been managing a long time.
Correia gives up four runs in the first three innings. A late charge proves fruitless and the Twins are suddenly nine games back with the July 31 non-waiver deadline looming.
Gardenhire: We all saw it: 90 pitches in four innings, and it was a hard 90, not an easy 90. He labored through it, kept the damage to a minimum. But he labored through it. He really didn’t have command of too much today, and he had to fight through everything, and there were men on base, and the game was really dragging with him.
I think he was probably worn out by the fourth inning.
Starting pitcher Kevin Correia: I feel like I just didn’t get in a good rhythm with their approaches.
If you throw 90 pitches in four innings it’s not that easy, but I was fine. I could have kept going.
Gardenhire: You know you’re running into good pitching with these guys, they got some arms, and you’re gonna have that. Today was disappointing because we had opportunities to get runs in, and we didn’t get them in. We’re desperately needing those guys to pick up some of those runs and get us back in that game, and then we can ad-lib a little bit.
But we left too many out there. The chances we did have were good chances to score runs, and we didn’t take advantage of them and that’s frustrating.
Correia: Obviously if you’re in a situation like this, you have to win and win a lot of games. You can’t go out there and lose two in a row, three in a row -- you’ve got to string long winning streaks together to get back in it. We’re not in an ideal position, we’re not in a position where we’re looking like, ‘Oh, we need a run and we’ll make the playoffs.’
Gardenhire: I can’t worry about [the trade deadline]. We just gotta keep trying to win ballgames. That’s upstairs, and there’s conversation going on. We’ll have meetings, we always do at this time of the year, talk with the staff and Terry and Rob and see where they’re at and see what they want to do.
But we’re not supposed to worry about it in the clubhouse. We’ve got to play baseball, we have to win baseball games, we have to figure out ways to score runs and win baseball games. That’s what we have to do in here.
Closer Glen Perkins: It’s frustrating. Our expectations are higher than that, and we need to play better. That’s all it comes down to. We had a chance to win in the last couple days, and we could have pitched better, obviously, and we had a chance at the end of the game that we didn’t find a way to win.
We didn’t make pitches early in the game and didn’t get the hits we needed late in the game.
Perkins: I know that I’m not going anywhere. We need to play better or there are going to be new faces here, and that’s what it boils down to is that either we play better or we’re going to have a new look, and that’s just how the game goes. I’ve got 24 other friends in here that I wouldn’t like to see go, but that’s the way it goes.
That’s the way the game works and they’re trying to make this team better, and if it means trading guys, than that is what it is.
Game 4: Minnesota 4, Cleveland 3
Ryan: [The sweep] wasn’t good because we had a lot of momentum coming out of the All-Star Break and all those festivities; everything went great. All of a sudden we come here and we had a beautiful crowd on Friday night, and I think there was 35,000 maybe on Friday, and we just never got into the game. It’s like the air was let out of this place.
And then Price sent us down; we didn’t have a chance in that game. Yesterday we had a couple chances, maybe more than a couple. We had opportunities there at the end. Certainly we were in the game, we just didn’t get the hit that we were looking for, and now we’re trying to gain the trust and the faith of the fans again.
It was disappointing; there’s no doubt about that. You don’t have to just ask me, I think that clubhouse in there have faith in their heads, they just never got anything going. The starting pitching never set the tone: we were down 2-0 or 3-0 every game. I don’t think too many people brought this up, but Tampa Bay’s record was worse than ours when they came in here. We had a better record.
We didn’t play like it.
It was just a deflating series. Taking two of three there would have been beautiful. Winning one of three after the first two games would have been okay if we salvaged one. It’s just not a good feeling walking out of the ballpark those three days. ‘We’re gonna be okay’: Nope. Right now, we’re not okay.
Gardenhire: We all know they’re talking about it, and everybody’s talking about it. If you go on TV and you watch all these shows, they’re talking about it. They’re talking about all these different moves; all kinds of names get thrown out there.
It’s the same way every year, and you just have to put it on the backburner. It’s easy for me to sit here and say that, but out there in the clubhouse, they all know what’s at stake and there’s a lot of players where names are getting thrown around, and who knows who started them?
You just have to live with it; it’s part of the game. It’s a fun part for some people and not so much fun for others. Our guys are trying to cope with it as best they possibly can.
Ryan: That’s a dangerous question (whether anyone is untradeable) because you don’t want to put anything out there that’s not accurate. I can easily say, ‘Well, we’re in a bad spot, almost anyone on this club would be available.’
There’s some guys that have no-trade rights, we honor that. There are some players that under no circumstances, unless you were really overwhelmed -- you’ve always gotta listen. There’s no question about that. You can’t, before you even hear a team start talking, you’ve always got to pick up the phone and you always should be listening, and you’ve got to at least be receptive to what somebody is saying.
There are players on this team that would be very difficult to trade, even in the situation we were in the last four years. We have talent on this ballclub. There would be interest in many, not just one.
Gardenhire: I’ve always said: If your name is involved in these things, you should be happy because somebody likes you, somebody might be thinking about getting you and bringing you over.
Honestly, it should be a compliment to guys. I know, like a [Josh] Willingham, I know he likes it here, his family’s here, the whole package, and I think their thoughts are more towards having to move their families and all those things moreso than anything else. And he’s been traded before, so it’s not a first for him, but they should look at it as a sign of respect. People are showing respect to you as a player, if they put your name out there, as being one of the guys somebody’s interested in.
Willy’s definitely one of those guys, I’m sure. A right-handed power guy, so it should be a sign of respect for them. I think they should take it as a compliment and try not to worry about it, but it happens. It’s part of it.
My name was not mentioned when I played. Well it was, but it was back to Double-A.
Willingham hits a go-ahead homer after Cleveland ties the game in the eighth…and remains in Minnesota for the rest of the homestand. Johnson does not get his first major league win, however, and is demoted after the game.
Gardenhire: The ballgame was another one of those games I thought [starter] Kris [Johnson] did fine; a lot of pitches again in five innings. He didn’t attack like we were hoping he would. First inning was good, and after that he kind of picked around the zone a little too much for us. But he competed, he gave us a chance, that’s all we ask -- give us a chance -- we scored some runs early.
[Set-up man] Casey [Fien], I think he just missed the zone. He was going away and got one over the inner part of the plate and guy’s swing was up the middle, but fortunately for us Hammer (outfielder Josh Willingham) put a really nice swing on a ball, and Perk came in and did a nice job, and a nice win for us, a really nice win.
Game 5: Cleveland 8, Minnesota 2
Ryan: I told [Kris Johnson], I wished I could change places with him because he’s got all kinds of ability.
We’ve got to get him to the point up where it’s just he doesn’t have any worries other than to get people out. Forget the pitch count and all that stuff; just get people out as far as you can go, and we’ll handle the rest.
We could have given it another go, but I figured, ‘Alright, that was enough to give him another go.’ He needs to get better than that. He’s better than that.
Pino allows three runs in the second, and once again in the second Minnesota fails to drive in runs with the bases loaded. The Twins score a run in the seventh to make the game 4-2, but reliever Matt Guerrier gives up four runs in the top of the ninth.
Gardenhire: Pino battled, hung in there pretty doggone good, we just didn’t do much offensively. We had some chances again and misfired a couple times when we had some opportunities. And then the game got a little out of whack there at the end. Matty didn’t have a good night.
Second baseman Brian Dozier: Everything is good. We know what’s around the corner and stuff. We try not to think about all that stuff, but at the same time, we feel like we’re still a good ball club and that we can win some games. We’ve just go to start pitching better, playing defense better and especially hitting better with men on base, that’s all.
Game 6: Minnesota 3, Cleveland 1
Gardenhire: When we got out there Matty said, ‘I’m fine.’ Which is kind of embarrassing.
I was embarrassed for going out there when he told me he’s fine, and I basically screamed at him. Told him he might as well get somebody else out.
So yeah, that wasn’t fun.
Long reliever Anthony Swarzak gives up only one run in a spot start, the lineup provided run support, and the Twins win the series against Cleveland. Guerrier, however, is designated for assignment following the game.
Gardenhire: A great win for our ballclub, winning a series, and a really tough moment here because Matty Guerrier (designated for assignment) means a lot to a lot of us in here in this organization and in this clubhouse. He’s a first class guy and a really tough moment here. It kind of takes away from a big win.
Game 7: White Sox 5, Minnesota 2
Ryan: We’ve got a lot of history with [Guerrier], me especially. We claimed him off waivers from the White Sox way back when. (Guerrier was actually acquired from Pittsburgh in 2003, but Chicago originally drafted him). We brought him in on a claim, and all of a sudden we’re designating him. It’s not the way you like to see things go, but he’s a class guy and he’s been a great member of this organization for about a decade.
Gardenhire: It was brutal. That’s not fun at all. We had him when I first broke in as a manager. He was a big, huge part of our bullpen, a guy that just always got it done. You could give him the ball and never worry about him. He’d take the ball every day, it didn’t matter how many innings, he never complained. He’s one of the more likeable guys you’ll have in a uniform and a lot of fun to be around, so that was really hard for all of us -- Terry, myself, Andy (pitching coach Rick Anderson) and Scotty Ullger have been around him a really long time.
In addition to designating Guerrier, the Twins traded Kendrys Morales, a mid-season acquisition, to the Seattle Mariners for reliever Stephen Pryor.
Ryan: Well, we’re at that time of year. We aren’t doing well on the field, and we’re getting to the trade deadline here, and there was interest in Kendrys. We thought it was wise before we got to that free agent period later in the year, it made sense to see what we could get in return, so that’s the reason. Nothing more; nothing less. It’s that time of year.
Gardenhire: It’s always good for a player when a player is interested in you. Kendrys has been there before. I think he liked it here. His family was here and he enjoyed his time here, but we kind of put ourselves in a position where we’re at that spot where this is gonna happen and put him in the middle of a pennant race out there, which is fun for him.
And we’ve got a nice little pitcher back here. A big kid who can throw the baseball. We’ve seen him, and it’s gonna happen. I got the call this morning, and there you have it. Now we’ll see where we go from here.
Hughes is injured in the third inning when an Adam Dunn liner hits him in the shin and is forced to leave the game. Reliever Samuel Deduno gives up three runs in four innings and Chicago starter Hector Noesi goes 7.2 innings and gives up only two runs.
Starting pitcher Phil Hughes: It’s tough. We come off that road trip where we played pretty well, and everyone thinks we have this great big homestand, and we have a chance to turn things around a little bit, and it obviously hasn’t been the case so far. But we just have to keep plugging away.
The nature of a guy like Morales who was a big addition when we got him, and then that’s kinda the situation you’re in. You have an opportunity to move a guy and get some prospects, and so that’s the way it goes. We know it’s our responsibility to play better, and then we won’t be in that situation.
We just need to keep plugging away, there’s no alternative.
Game 8: White Sox 9, Minnesota 5
Gardenhire: We’re pretty thin out there. We need Kevin to pitch a little bit for us here. Definitely Swarzak and Deduno are out. Pressly threw a couple last night, he’ll probably say he can go, but the rest of them are one inning guys more than anything else.
Correia gives up 10 hits and seven runs in four innings. Logan Darnell is called up to start the next game, replacing the injured Ricky Nolasco.
Starting pitcher Kevin Correia: I made my two worse pitches of the night to two of probably their best hitters: two hanging curveballs. Hanging back, it’s pretty much the only two pitches I’d like to have back.
Just overall it just didn’t go that well. We hit the ball decently at the end of the game, and at that point we were down too many runs.
Saturday’s starting pitcher Logan Darnell: It’s probably the same emotion, close to it. It’s different this time because I actually know the game I’m throwing so it’s not that feeling of just waiting and waiting and waiting. This is a little better that I know when I’m going to start the game, but as far as going out there it’s the same mind frame as last time: just try to get each guy out and see how long I can do it for.
Game 9: White Sox 7, Minnesota 0
Ryan: It’s that time of year. It’s about the toughest 10-day period for any GM is this time. This and the Winter Meetings, the Winter Meetings are like this -- people coming and going, a lot of rumors certainly.
It’s probably a seller’s market just because there’s so many teams still in contention for that second wild card. There’s a lot of teams four or five games out. Tampa Bay, a week ago we were talking about them…selling. They were about four-and-a-half out, so that should be past. They’ve got as good of a chance as anybody with that pitching staff.
Let’s say you put together a stellar August and September, all of a sudden you’ve got a chance to win the division.
We were nine back about this time six, seven, eight years ago, we won that thing going away. We had a good club. We had a good club and things didn’t go well, then all of a sudden we got even and we took off.
Nine games out. What are we? Twelve, 11 now?
Where we’re at right now feels a heck of a lot different than where we were then.
No additional trades are made. Darnell gives up seven runs in his first major league start, and Minnesota cannot scratch across a run against White Sox ace Chris Sale.
Gardenhire: He made some decent pitches.
He made enough pitches, but unfortunately it’s five innings again with a starter. We’re fortunate that Pressly came in and did a heck of a job, limited the number of pitches and then we got Perkins in, but we were pretty thin out there. We needed innings.
Game 10: Minnesota 4, White Sox 3
Gardenhire: It’s frustrating for myself and my coaching staff because we go out there and do the routine every day, and yesterday was one of those days where the starting pitcher just ate us up. For this homestand, we had pretty big hopes on this homestand to do some good, and we really have not played well at all.
We wanted this 10-game homestand. We sure didn’t handle it very well. We talked about: This is a good chance to do things, and we just haven’t played well at home, which is just really disappointing.
Ryan: We have to get back to competitive baseball. We haven’t been competitive here the last week or so. The White Sox have dominated us, and they aren’t all that far different from us with their record, but it doesn’t look like that right now. The guy, Sale, yesterday, all right: He dominated us, but so did Noesi, so we’ve got to get back to competitive baseball, giving ourselves a chance. We haven’t had much of a chance to win a game here for a while, since Cleveland for sure, so that’s where we need to go.
Yeah, it’s disappointing because we came out of the break, and, Tampa Bay, they weren’t much different than our record either. Well, that has changed. There are people going one way, and there are people going the other. We’re going the wrong way.
Pino gives up two runs in six innings, and Perkins loads the bases with one out and a one-run lead, but the Twins hang on to avoid a four-game sweep against their rivals, finishing the homestand at 3-7.
Gardenhire: We needed a win. We said that. It’s fun shaking hands, it was very entertaining at the end with Perk out there. I think if you’re a player out there, you got two choices: Do I want the ball hit to me, or do I not want it hit to me? And I think a lot of our guys were iffy on that, but it was tense, it was really tense.
Outfielder Sam Fuld: When that ball came out of the sun, it was a big sigh, yeah. It’s never easy.
Gardenhire: It’s been really frustrating around here and we know we haven’t hit much, and we haven’t pitched very much in this homestand. It was a pretty disappointing homestand, but as I said before, to get the win today was huge. A lot of smiles out there, a lot of relief and you’ll talk to more than one guy out there, but they’ll all tell you the same thing -- that was probably as intense of a ninth inning that you can get.
Perkins: We’ve been inconsistent. I’ve said many times that we’re not a bad team; we’re just inconsistent. And that’s because we score runs one day, and we don’t the next day; we pitch good one day, and then we don’t pitch good the next day. That’s been the most frustrating part is that we’re just inconsistent.
Hopefully we’ll show up. Hopefully we’ll go to Kansas City and play the baseball that we’re capable of. And do it on offense and defense and with our pitching and everything.
Tom Schreier can be heard on The Michael Knight Show from 2-3:00 on weekdays. He has written for Bleacher Report and the Yahoo Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @tschreier3.