Bats unable get clutch hit without Sano

Bats unable get clutch hit without Sano

OAKLAND -- It's hard to be disappointed with a 3-3 split of a tough West Coast road trip given Minnesota's slow start to the season.

But Wednesday's 5-1 loss to the Athletics that handed the Twins their ninth sweep of the season capped off a series that felt like a big missed opportunity, especially following a sweep of the first-place Mariners in which the team seemed to finally hit its stride on offense.

"You can't really pinpoint anything as to why we got swept these last three games, but I know coming into Oakland, we felt really good about everything," second baseman Brian Dozier said. "We still played really good defense and threw the ball all right, but we left a lot of people on base. We just didn't get those hits we were getting in Seattle."

The Twins left 26 runners on base in their three losses to Oakland and hit .160 (4-for-25) with runners in scoring position. Despite having their share of opportunities in all three games, Minnesota struggled to put the ball in play and have productive at-bats with runners on and failed to score multiple runs in any inning.

A prime example was a big missed opportunity in the sixth of Wednesday's series finale, when the Twins loaded the bases down 4-0 with nobody out thanks to a walk by Dozier, a single from Trevor Plouffe and a walk by Byung Ho Park.

The Twins scored only once on an Eduardo Escobar sacrifice fly and saw the rally end when Oakland left-hander Sean Manaea struck out both Max Kepler and Juan Centeno.

"What I noticed was that he didn't have to throw strikes to record outs," manager Paul Molitor said. "We got a little anxious."

Manaea's tough pitching

To compound the issue, the Twins also lost both Danny Santana and Miguel Sano to hamstring injuries in Oakland, leaving Minnesota without arguably its most dangerous hitter as it looks to regroup. Sano had homered in four straight games heading into the Oakland series and was batting .368 with eight RBIs in the six games before his injury.

"[Sano] has been swinging the bat well," Dozier said. "He's been carrying us the last couple of weeks, but I feel like a lot of people are starting to come into their own and we're starting to swing the bats a lot better now."

But even as the pressure on the Twins' other hitters increases to continue without Sano's lost production, Molitor is trying to make sure that his hitters aren't pressing despite the team's struggles at the plate.

"The danger is trying to do too much at times," Molitor said. "You're not sure where you're going to show up in the lineup on a given day, and guys are going to have to fill in some spots. We have to find a way to keep going even though we lost maybe our most dangerous hitter."

Do-Hyoung Park is a reporter for MLB.com based in Minneapolis. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.