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Twins 8, Cubs 1: Sometimes it’s just not your day

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I watched this game so you didn’t have to.

Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

In the preview to this game, posted Saturday afternoon, I included this note:

Of the last six Cubs pitchers to throw no-hitters, all of them allowed a hit within the first three batters in their next outing. The last Cubs pitcher to record even a hitless inning in his first game immediately following a no-no was Ken Holtzman, August 23, 1969 vs. the Astros (allowed his first hit with one out in the third inning).

That can now be amended to “seven Cubs pitchers,” because Alec Mills joined this group by allowing a home run to the third batter he faced Saturday night, Eddie Rosario of the Twins.

I should have known right there that it wasn’t going to be Mills’ or the Cubs’ night. Sure, Mills threw pretty well for five innings, but the Cubs offense couldn’t get anything rolling and the wheels fell off in a five-run Twins seventh that led to this game being an 8-1 Minnesota blowout of the Cubs. The game ended the Cubs’ five-game winning streak and was the Cubs’ worst loss in almost a month, since they got crushed 10-1 by the White Sox August 21. The Cubs had also won their last four interleague games, so that streak’s also broken. The Cubs stand 10-6 vs. AL teams this year with four remaining.

As I noted, Mills pitched pretty well after the Rosario home run. The Cubs tied the game in the second inning. Willson Contreras was hit by a pitch — his league-leading 12th. Incidentally, the HBP looked quite similar to the pitch that hit Kyle Schwarber Friday that was ruled not a HBP. Anyway, two outs later Jason Heyward singled Contreras to third, and David Bote smacked a double down the line to knot the game at 1 [VIDEO].

These numbers are good for Bote:

After Bote’s hit, though, Michael Pineda and three Twins relievers stymied the Cubs offense. They had just three baserunners after the second inning, two of them on hits by Jason Heyward, who went 3-for-3 in the losing effort. The Cubs offense has mostly vanished over the last three games, scoring just five runs. Fortunately, the pitching’s been good enough to win two of those three.

Thus there aren’t a lot of Cubs highlights to show from this game, but I thought you’d enjoy this nice double play in the fifth started by Mills [VIDEO].

Millsy snagged the ball between his legs and fired to Baez to start the Twin killing (pun intended).

The Twins pushed across a run in the sixth off Mills on an RBI single by Rosario, and then everything fell apart in the seventh, which included a monstrous home run by Miguel Sano that reached Waveland, a hit batter and an uncharacteristic throwing error by Javier Baez. I’ll spare you a full description of the rest of the carnage. Two runs were charged to Mills after he left the game, so his overall line doesn’t look that great (six innings, four runs) but I thought he threw a credible game. He’ll have one more regular-season start, likely Thursday in Pittsburgh.

Give the Twins credit, they’re a good team, and Pineda is a pretty good pitcher. Minnesota clinched a postseason berth with the win, though their fans are pretty much beside themselves about that, because they’re likely facing the Yankees in the wild-card round and their postseason history against the Yankees is a disaster.

The Cubs lost a game in the standings to two of three teams still in the playoff hunt in the NL Central, as the Cardinals and Brewers won while the Reds lost Saturday evening. So the Cubs lead St. Louis by 4½ games and Cincinnati and Milwaukee by 5½. Cubs magic numbers entering Sunday’s games stand as follows:

Hmmm. Those don’t seem to have changed since yesterday, and indeed they haven’t. With eight games to go in this shortened season, there’s still plenty of time for the Cubs to clinch the NL Central title, as well as clinch the No. 2 seed. The Braves also lost Saturday, so the Cubs maintained a one-game lead over Atlanta for that seed.

Further, with the Cardinals only a game ahead of the Reds and Brewers, it’s looking more and more like St. Louis’ makeup doubleheader against the Tigers will actually have to be played Monday, September 28 to determine postseason berths and/or seeding.

The Cubs will look for the series win over the Twins Sunday evening at Wrigley Field. Yu Darvish will start for the Cubs and Jose Berrios is the Twins starter. Game time is 6:05 p.m. CT and the game is the featured Sunday Night Baseball contest on ESPN.