MINNEAPOLIS -- With a 4-1 loss to the Texas Rangers, the Twins didn’t exactly roar into the all-star break, but they’ll take their position as the unofficial first half of the season ended Sunday afternoon, July 7, at Target Field.
Rougned Odor hit a three-run home run off Adalberto Mejia (0-2) to break open a tie game in the 11th inning, and Sean Kelly (4-2) earned the win with two scoreless innings to end the game.
The Twins enter the four-game break with 56 victories, first place in the American League Central and more home runs (166) than any major league team has ever hit before the All-Star Game.
They also took two of three from the Rangers despite playing without starting left fielder and RBI leader Eddie Rosario and all-star pitcher Jake Odorizzi, who was in line to start Sunday before developing a blister on his middle right finger during his last start.
Odorizzi won’t pitch Tuesday in Cleveland, but fellow right-hander Jose Berrios will and shortstop Jorge Polanco will start. Not bad for a team that finished last season six games under .500 and replaced nearly its entire coaching staff in the offseason.
“The first half has gone well in general,” first-year manager Rocco Baldelli said before Sunday’s game. “I think we should be happy and proud with how we’ve played. That being said, it hasn’t been easy.”
The Twins had their chances Sunday, failing to score after putting runners at second and third with none out in the fourth inning, and leaving the winning run at third in the 10th when catcher Mitch Garver popped a high foul ball to first baseman Danny Santana.
Five Twins pitchers combined to strike out 13 before Mejia started the 11th. He walked Gallo and Asdrubal Cabrera before surrendering a 409-foot home run into the bullpen by Odor, hitless with four strikeouts in his previous eight at-bats.
Despite putting eight players on the injured list since June 18 — four of them starting position players, all of them major contributors — the Twins went 9-9 during the stretch and enter the break with a 5 1/2-game lead on second-place Cleveland in the Central.
That lead was up to 11 1/2 games on June 2, but the Indians have won six straight and the teams meet coming out of the break with a three-game series that starts Friday in Cleveland.
It has been Minnesota’s worst stretch of the season but far from a disaster; they’re still the only team in baseball that hasn’t lost more than two games in a row, and their 166 homers equals the team’s output for all of 2018.
“I’m very pleased with the way that the stretch has gone because it was extraordinarily challenging,” Baldelli said. “The way they’ve played has kind of masked what that stretch actually looked like, because it was a very challenging three weeks. This was a very challenging three-week period of time, and our players have continued to perform despite the challenges.”