Ryan Pressly’s velocity remains impressive. The right-hander’s raw stuff is as good as any in the game, as shown by the eight strikeouts he has piled up over his past four innings.
Trouble is, in between all those strikeouts, the ball keeps flying over the fence.
Ian Kinsler’s two-run homer in the seventh inning of Friday’s 4-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels was the latest example of Pressly’s recent struggles. It wiped out a one-run lead for the Twins, who lost for the third time in four tries and fell 5 1/2 games behind the first-place Cleveland Indians.
“You play a game of failure for a reason, you know?” Pressly said. “These guys are good. These are the best hitters in the world. If you make a mistake, they’re going to make you pay for it.”
Kinsler’s blast followed Martin Maldonado’s one-out double on a slider down in the zone and came on a hanging two-strike curveball from Pressly, who had held him to three hits (no homers) and a walk in 14 prior meetings. Kinsler came in hitting .212 with just six homers this season, his first with the Angels.
“I left a pitch hanging and he hit it,” Pressly said. “He put a good swing on it. I probably should’ve gone with another pitch but it is what it is.”
Kinsler’s only extra-base hit off Pressly had been a double back in 2013, the pitcher’s rookie year as a Rule 5 pick from the Boston Red Sox. Justin Upton added a solo homer off Addison Reed in the eighth as the Angels won their fifth straight to open a three-game weekend series at Target Field.
Over his past five outings, covering four innings, Pressly has a 15.75 earned run average with eight hits and three homers allowed.
“I’m fine,’ he said. “Still throwing pretty hard and I’ve got control of all my stuff. I just made a bad pitch.”
It was Pressly’s 33rd appearance through 60 games, keeping him on pace for a career-high 89 outings that would challenge the Twins’ single-season mark of 90, set by Mike Marshall in 1979. Though he’d pitched just once in the previous four days, Pressly remained one outing behind American League leader Joe Jimenez of the Detroit Tigers.
Reed, second on the team with 30 outings, has allowed homers in three of his past four outings. He’s on pace for 81 outings, which would eclipse the career-high 80 he made for the New York Mets in 2016.
“We’ve had workload issues with a lot of guys,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “We try to back guys off sometimes, even a couple days when we have to. When you’re up here, sometimes you’ve got to be called upon, even when you’re not maybe 100 percent. That’s just how it is sometimes.”
Facing an Angels lineup that was without rookie sensation Shohei Ohtani and All-Star shortstop Andrelton Simmons — both placed on the disabled list week — resurgent right-hander Lance Lynn ripped off his fourth straight quality start with six innings of one-run ball.
Maldonado’s run-scoring single up the middle highlighted a four-hit second, but that would be the only scratch on Lynn’s card. He blew a 95-mph fastball by Mike Trout to leave the bases loaded and would allow only a two-out walk in the third over his final four innings.
Lowering his earned run average to 5.08, Lynn struck out at least one batter in every inning and jumped ahead to 11 of his final 15 batters. Hitting 95 mph several times while mixing in a high-80s cutter and a handful of curves, Lynn went to three-ball counts just four times while inducing 11 swinging strikes on a 105-pitch night.
Despite retiring his final 10 batters, Lynn was pulled with an eye on the big picture.
“Would I have liked to go out?” Lynn said of the seventh. “Yes, but was it the smart play to (say) maybe this is a good time to not push it. That’s where we were at. We both agreed, Mollie and I, that this is a good time not to push it.”
Until Pressly’s meltdown, Lynn stood to win his fourth straight start after Robbie Grossman’s go-ahead homer off Garrett Richards in the sixth.