The Minnesota Twins own one win in their last 10 games, including two losses to the lowly Cincinnati Reds.
Despite the rough stretch, outfielder Max Kepler does not believe it is time for the Twins to panic.
The Twins hope to make Kepler’s belief stand up Monday night when they host the Toronto Blue Jays in the opener of a three-game series at Target Field.
“I believe in everyone in here, if it’s a pitcher, a coach, a hitter,” Kepler said after an 8-2 loss to the Reds on Sunday. “We’re all capable of winning. It’s baseball. You have to stick with your mentality and effort and just power through it.
“We’ve got each other’s backs. We just have to keep going. Tomorrow’s a new day.”
Minnesota was outscored 24-14 over their weekend series with the Reds as its starting rotation struggled to work deep into games. They’ve failed to make it through five innings in six of the last eight games and 11 times overall this season, putting extra pressure on a bullpen that’s already starting to feel the effects.
“I’m not sure about the psychological effect,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said after his team’s ERA rose to 5.26 “I know that it takes a physical toll, just the amount of innings. We’ve had to make some moves along the way just to have enough pitching.”
It will be up to right-hander Lance Lynn to buck that trend as he takes the mound for the fifth time this season and still in search of his first victory.
He’s allowed at least five runs in three outings this season and couldn’t get out of the fourth his last time out, giving up six runs on seven hits and three walks with a pair of home runs in a 7-4 loss to the New York Yankees on Wednesday.
Lynn worked 3 2/3 innings and sustained a slight ankle injury.
“Very mild rollover that kind of gave him a stinger,” Molitor said.
Lynn is 0-1 with a 2.25 ERA in two career starts against the Blue Jays, who come to Minnesota looking for momentum after snapping a four-game losing streak with a 7-2 win over the Texas Rangers Sunday.
Like Molitor, Toronto manager John Gibbons has had to turn to his bullpen early and often this season, leading the team to recall right-hander Carlos Ramirez from Triple-Buffalo while sending slumping second baseman Devon Travis down.
Travis was the leadoff hitter on Opening Day but batted .148 with three RBIs while striking out 18 times through 61 at-bats.
“We’re strapped in the pen right now.” Gibbons said. “Those guys are pitching a lot and really the thinking behind it is, he’s strictly a second baseman and (rookie infielder Lourdes) Gurriel you can put him anywhere so that gives us a little more versatility. We don’t think it will be long-term by any means. And it’s not going to hurt him to go down there and get his bat going too, but it basically came down to we got to protect the bullpen a little bit.”
Gibbons did not have to dip into his bullpen extensively Sunday as J.A. Happ allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings and was backed by homers from Yangervis Solarte, Teoscar Hernandez and Kevin Pillar as the Blue Jays won for the third time in 10 games.
The Blue Jays are hoping for a similar formula with Aaron Sanchez on the mound.
Sanchez, who is throwing a changeup a career-high 29 percent of the time, recorded a quality start in four of his five turns this season. He last pitched Wednesday against the Boston Red Sox during a 4-3 loss when he allowed two runs and three hits while getting a season-high eight strikeouts in a no-decision.
Sanchez is 1-0 with a 2.57 ERA in three career starts against Minnesota.
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