Game 136: Astros 8, Twins 5

This one is going to sting for a while, at least until the next Twins win.

The Twins were on the verge of a very exciting and impressive game and series victory before it all unraveled. The Twins had their best reliever in the game at the right moment and he just didn't have it today. Pitchers have been called effectively wild, but in this game, Trevor May was ineffectively wild. He had a hard time throwing strikes, and once he did, it was hit a long ways by Jed Lowrie (?!)

The Twins will just have to look at this as an opportunity to show how resilient they are. After the Angels shut out the Rangers, the Twins remained just 1 1/2 games back of the last playoff position. Of course, it also meant the Angels are within a game of the Twins. The Twins go from the kettle into the fire now as they go to Kansas City for a three-game series to play the best team in the American League.

It's been a crazy last few weeks as the Twins have gone from nearly out of contention to right in the middle of the wildcard race, mostly on the strength of the bullpen. However, the rotation, which has for the most part been better than expected this season, was becoming a concern with a lot of short, ineffective starts. However, the Twins have now gotten back-to-back terrific starts from Ervin Santana, who's struggled the most, and Tyler Duffey, the Twins' least experienced pitcher that most Twins fans hadn't even heard of prior to this season.

Of course, now the bullpen is once again a concern with Jepsen needing help from Byron Buxton to save Saturday's game and May blowing the lead on Sunday. Meanwhile, All-Star closer Glen Perkins is out with a bad back and showing little signs of improvement.

If I had to complain about something in Sunday's game, it would have been the top of the 7th inning. FSN just put up a graphic showing how Eduardo Escobar had been the Twins' best hitter for the last couple weeks when Escobar attempted to sacrifice bunt against a pitcher he'd already homered against earlier in the game and with the 8 and 9 batters coming up and the slow-footed Trevor Plouffe on second. The Astros got the forceout at third and then Kurt Suzuki and Buxton were retired quickly to end the last chance the Twins had to break the game open. If Escobar had been able to reach base and the Twins were able to extend the inning to bring Aaron Hicks to the plate, it might have been a completely different game. Of course, Hicks hit a leadoff home run the next inning, but the Twins were trailing at that point 5-2.

The other issue was Plouffe was adamant that he was safe at third on the sacrifice attempt because Lowrie didn't have his foot on the base. The Twins apparently decided there wasn't enough video evidence and didn't challenge. However, it was a critical point late in the game. What would be the harm in challenging? If it's overturned, it would be bases loaded and no outs. If not, you just lose your challenge, but at this point in the game, you can still ask for the umps to review a play anyways whether you have a challenge or not. Plus, maybe a long challenge could throw off Dallas Keuchel. It just seemed silly to not challenge, especially with how convinced Plouffe was that he was safe.