Can Twins turn it around or will they join the Vikings?

Marshall’s Lyniel Chalupsky goes airborne over Duluth East goalkeeper Ava Patronas, who had the ball clutched firmly.

Maybe we should all just figure out a way to do some socializing while in quarantine. It appears there is no relief in sight — from the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic, and from gigantic sports letdowns from our favorites.
There are combinations of the letdowns, too. Not only have the Vikings found a unique method to prove their ineptitude, with their 0-3 start to the season, but right after the game, the Tennessee Titans, who beat the Vikings 31-30 in Minneapolis on Sunday, announced they were suspending operation through Saturday because they discovered several players and front office personnel have tested positive for the virus. So naturally the Vikings had to shut down their operations as well and are testing their staff with fingers crossed.

The Twins, meanwhile, gave new meaning to the term “backing in” to the pennant, which should have prepared us all for the collapse-to-come. It happened in Game 1 of the American League playoff series, when Kenta Maeda was cruising along with a 1-0 lead, but the Astros tied it, and when manager Rocco Baldelli went to the bullpen…well, it wasn’t pretty, and Houston took a 1-0 lead with a 4-1 victory over the suddenly punchless Twins.

The Twins were Exhibit A when they fell into a slump at the end of the season, but despite losing repeatedly they managed to hang on and gain the playoffs anyhow. That’s what the Twins did, in the last two weeks, but they were fortunate that the Chicago White Sox were outstumbling them, so they ended up winning the pennant, despite a suddenly struggling pitching staff.

Marshall eighth-grader Aubrey Johnson turned on the jets to escape Esko’s defense for a chance in the Hilltoppers 1-0 victory.

Maeda, the newly acquired Japanese right-hander who became the ace of the staff when Jose Berrios seemed to lose his command in his last start, has continued to shine, but the bullpen has lapsed into inconsistency. On any given day any one of the bullpen crew might look great, but others might not. The twin closers of left-hander Taylor Rogers and right-hander Sergio Romo have sagged into situations where they have been unable to place their pitches precisely where they’d been putting them all season, and the result was that no lead has been safe, recently.

Getting regulars Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Josh Donaldson, Miguel Sano, catcher Mitch Garver and DH Nelson Cruz back for the final week of the regular season seemed to return the boundless optimism to the club. But Donaldson’s leg problem flared up again and he was declared out for the entire playoff series against the Houston Astros. Garver didn’t play Game 1, and Cruz, who was Mr. Reliable all season, slipped from the .330 range to finish .303 — as though somebody transposed the numbers.

The Twins headed into Tuesday afternoon’s playoff opener certain that they would end their absurd record of 16 consecutive playoff losses. Most of that can be attributed to the latest version of the Yankee Jinx, because whenever the Twins made the playoffs, they seemed to run smack into the Yankees and end their season without winning any more games.

But on Tuesday afternoon, in an empty Target Field, the Twins record of playoff futility reached 17 games, and were thrust into Wednesday’s Game 2 in a do-or-die situation.

In the Tuesday game, Maeda didn’t have his pinpoint stuff but he only gave up two hits, and no runs. He threw 91 pitches, 52 of them for strikes. But the Astros bunched three hits in the seventh off Tyler Duffey, and after Rogers threw a perfect eighth, Romo came in with his sweeping curve ball and gave up a walk and two hits in the ninth before departing. The Astros went on to score three unearned runs for the 4-1 victory.

Some teams swarm on defense, Marshall tends to swarm on offense, as six attackers went after Esko goalkeeper One Randall, whose fingers can be seen in the crowd clutching the ball.

When you consider that Zach Greinke was the Houston ace starting the first game, consider also that, good as he is, a year ago he was No. 3 behind Jiustin Verlander and Gerritt Cole. Verlander is out having Tommy John Surgery and Cole is now the ace of the New York Yankees staff.

Maybe the Twins have come back from that — this is written on Tuesday, so Game 2, and if necessary Game 3 will be done before you see this — but the Twins falling in Game 1 to an Astros, who came into the series 29-31 as the only under-.500 team in the field, were allowed to creep up to 30-31 with their opening victory.

OK, 30-31 — there’s that score again, by which the Vikings fell apart when it looked as though they had taken control from the Titans last Sunday. It was hard to believe Kirk Cousins could fail to win this time, because running back Dalvin Cook ran 22 times and gained 181 yards, best of any NFL runner last weekend. And Tennessee looked like it really didn’t want to win, settling for six field goals by Stephen Gostkowski. His fifth one was from 54 yards — his best ever. His sixth one was from 55 yards, making his record 54-yarder his shortest record on record.

The thought that this could already be a throwaway season after only three games is incredible. But the Green Bay Packers are 3-0, and so are the Chicago Bears, who have been dodging land-mines through all three of their games. This time Mitch Trubisky threw an interception that annoyed the coaches so much they yanked him in the first half and sent in Nick Foles, who threw three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter and led the Bears to a 30-26 triumph over Atlanta. Foles will start this week, against

The Bears come home to face Indianapolis, while the Vikings go to Houston. That is, if they’re allowed to play this weekend. The Titans, if they are allowed to play, take their 3-0 record home to face Pittsburgh, which is also 3-0.
Meanwhile, the most exciting team in the NFL continues to be the Seattle Seahawks, who battled and came back to beat Dallas 38-31 as the incomparable Russell Wilson threw five more touchdown passes. In three games, Wilson has thrown four, five, and five touchdown passes, for a total of 14, and the Seahawks are 3-0.

Peggy Sobczak of Twig modeled the sells hockey-oriented facemask, which is among the designs she sells at her Farmer’s Market booth Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings.

We have a situation here, sports fans, with the UMD athletics pushed back to near Christmas for out yearly hockey fix, and we’re looking at the Vikings being atrocious, the Twins possibly falling apart right under our gaze, and it’s hard to be optimistic for the Wild, who have seen Wild Bill Guerin trade away Eric Staal, their best player, and letting Mikko Koivu go off into forced retirement. Unless he finds another team who can use his skills.

Thankfully, we’ve got high school sports going delicately forward to watch. And, by the way, if you tend to go to the Duluth Farmer’s Market, on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings, and you’re a hockey fan, check out Peggy Sobczak’s display right near the side entrance. My older son, Jack, spotted a couple of baskets of cleverly designed face masks at her booth, and bought a couple of them. He told me about them, and I suggested to Peggy that she might consider making a mask design with a hockey motif.

A week later, she had them. I bought one, and bought more for my wife, Joan, and sons Jack and Jeff. I figure somehow I plan to be at some hockey games and in some press boxes, and having a mask with assorted helmets, skates, sticks, etc., on it is the perfect way to promote the sport. If you get to the Farmer’s Market, she has masks in all sizes, $6 apiece, and ask her if she has any hockey masks remaining.