CHICAGO — Nearly a game’s worth of frustrations boiled over in the seventh inning Tuesday night for the Twins’ mild-mannered manager Rocco Baldelli and designated hitter Nelson Cruz.
The Twins had gripes all night long, but after watching home plate umpire Will Little ring up rookie Ryan Jeffers to end the seventh inning on a pitch out of the zone, those gripes grew a little louder.
Both were ejected for the third time in their careers, but the display of passion from two of the Twins’ leaders wasn’t enough on a night where the team finished with just four hits. The Twins fell 6-2 to the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field, dropping their second straight game to the division leaders.
The Twins’ frustrations with the strike zone were evident throughout the game. Cruz had been rung up on strikes by Little an inning earlier, and starter Randy Dobnak didn’t get some of the calls earlier in the game that he was expecting.
“You generally get more frustrated with calls when you’re not playing up to your capabilities and expectations,” Baldelli said. “It’s on us to go out and play better and not have to rely on close calls to be the deciding factors in these games.”
The bigger issue for the Twins was that they were unable to mount much of a rally against White Sox starter Dane Dunning.
The rookie, making just his fifth career start, allowed just three hits in his seven innings, striking out seven. One of those hits was a Byron Buxton inside-the-park home run that landed past the outstretched glove of center fielder Luis Robert, who then crashed into the wall as the ball rolled away and Buxton sped around the bases.
Buxton helped manufacture the Twins’ other run in the fifth, reaching on a single and advancing on a wild pitch and passed ball before scoring on a Max Kepler grounder.
But despite the efforts from the speedy center fielder, the Twins (30-20), after missing out on many of their opportunities the night before, just didn’t wind up with many on Tuesday.
After the Twins tied the game in the top of the third, the White Sox (32-16) pulled ahead in the bottom of that inning with a James McCann RBI double and a Robert single up the middle off of Dobnak that plated two more runs. Dobnak lasted 4 1/3 innings, giving up four runs.
“That there was a good team. First and foremost, they can definitely swing it pretty well,” Dobnak said. “But I feel like a lot of the hits that they had tonight, they weren’t really, I guess, getting a lot of barrels on it, maybe. But they were just kind of finding the holes, and that’s just the game of baseball.”
The White Sox added runs in the sixth and seventh on Tim Anderson and James McCann home runs off Tyler Clippard and Jorge Alcala, respectively.
With the loss, the Twins, who came into the series just a game behind the White Sox, dropped to three games behind them. They remain in second place in the American League Central Division and firmly in playoff position.
“I want to be clear on something first and foremost. We didn’t lose tonight because of calls. We didn’t lose tonight because of anything that happened with any of the umpires,” Baldelli said. “Yeah, there’s some frustration in certain instances, but we have to certainly go out and play better, have better at-bats, hit balls that are in the zone when we get the opportunity, and pitch better and make more consistent quality pitches. It comes down to us needing to do a better job.”