Twins can’t convert early, play shaky defense in loss to Diamondbacks

PHOENIX — Arizona starter Madison Bumgarner was shaky near the beginning of the game. The Twins couldn’t take full advantage. The Twins’ defense was shaky during the middle of the game. The Diamondbacks took full advantage.

The Twins couldn’t convert on early opportunities and made a couple misplays in the field that sent them to a 7-2 loss to the Diamondbacks on Friday night in the series opener at Chase Field.

“We couldn’t have hit the ball harder and we couldn’t have had any more quality, well-struck balls — that’s just the way it goes,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “ … If we have at-bats like that most days, we’re going to win some games and today just wasn’t that day.

After Byron Buxton — who hit the ball harder than 106 miles per hour four separate times — led off the game with his 19th home run of the season, the Twins (37-29)  took up residency on the basepaths during the first three innings.

But despite clogging the bases — in addition to Buxton’s home run, the Twins collected seven hits in the first three innings — they only managed to score one other run.

Jose Miranda’s single brought home Gio Urshela in the third inning, tying the game. But in each of the first three innings, the Twins left a pair of runners on base, and Bumgarner would only give up one other hit over the course of the final three innings of his outing, dodging trouble early and cruising late.

“He knows how to get through things and figure things out and he figured it out today,” Baldelli said.

Twins starter Devin Smeltzer was hurt early by the longball — Diamondbacks (31-35) left fielder Jordan Luplow tagged him for a two-run shot in the first inning and a solo shot in the third — and later by defense.

In the fourth inning, with the Twins trailing by just a run, things started to unravel. Smeltzer issued a walk to begin the frame and a single before second baseman Jake Hager laid down a bunt. Smeltzer fielded the ball and took a second — he said he was waiting for a ruling from the umpire — before rocketing a throw past Miranda at first.

Two runs scored on the play.

“I kind of last minute lunged and turned and threw it,” Smeltzer said. “If it’s a foot lower, we’re not talking about this.”

Later in the inning, Smeltzer, Miranda and catcher Gary Sánchez converged on a foul pop up, which dropped between the latter two. Given another chance, Carson Kelly finished his at-bat with an RBI single.

“Just playing smarter baseball and just being clean in the infield is always something we pride ourselves on,” Baldelli said. “We’ve done a good job of it but that wasn’t the inning we would point to as an example of it.”

Six of the seven runs Smeltzer allowed were earned in his 4 1/3-inning outing, his rockiest start of his seven this season, though Smeltzer actually said he was happy with how his stuff felt today.

“I don’t think anything sped up on me tonight,” Smeltzer said. “I don’t think I executed any less. It was just kind of one of those nights.”

On all sides of it.

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