PITTSBURGH - Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen had just smacked a three-run double in the second inning on Thursday, bringing Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson to the mound to ask righthander Liam Hendriks why he can't make an adjustment.
"I've seen you throw strikes with your fastball before," Anderson said to him.
Hendriks has made six starts this season and 10 in his brief major league career. For the most of those starts, he has been unable to show what kind of pitcher he can be. Another poor outing by Hendriks sent the Twins on their way to a 9-1 loss to the Pirates as Pittsburgh righthander James McDonald threw the first complete game of his career.
Hendriks had the Twins in a 4-0 hole after two innings, and it was only at that point did he make some good pitches. At least that's what he believes.
"I guess I just need to get angry at myself, to be perfectly honest," Hendriks said. "I used that playing football back in Australia. It was one of those things where, as soon as I got angry at myself for doing something, I kind of locked in.
"I need to get angry at myself earlier. Like, I got angry at myself after letting McCutchen hit that three-run double. I started doing better after that. I need to get angry at myself from the get-go, and psych myself into the game, really."
Well, Hendriks was fine for a few innings after that but, with a man on in the sixth, he grooved a pitch to Rod Barajas and watched it sail out of the deepest part of PNC Park for a two-run homer and a 6-1 Pirates lead.
Hendriks gave up six runs, three earned, on eight hits with no walks and three strikeouts. In 10 career starts, he is 0-6 with a 6.84 ERA. In 51 1/3 innings, he has given up 75 hits. He is tied for the team lead with nine home runs given up -- in only six appearances.
The Twins missed a couple plays behind him, but manager Ron Gardenhire said, "There were rockets flying everywhere."
Gardenhire has watched his team lose three consecutive series, and clearly was disturbed by Hendriks' inability to keep the game close.
"We made some mistakes, but more than anything it goes back to your pitching," Gardenhire said. "Pitchers have to give you a chance, and we just didn't get one tonight."
The Twins believe Hendriks is talented enough to be a winning pitcher in the majors. He has good breaking pitches and likes to be unpredictable. But his inability to throw strikes with his fastball -- which would set his other pitches up -- has puzzled them.
They are a day away from using their 10th starting pitcher of the season. They need someone in the rotation to step up in the worst way. Instead Thursday, they got more growing pains Hendriks.
McCutchen went 3-for-4 with three RBI and was a homer shy of the cycle as he lifted his batting average to .339. Garrett Jones was 2-for-4 with a homer off reliever Jeff Manship in the seventh. Pedro Alvarez also homered off Manship in that inning -- with the ball almost bouncing into the Allegheny River.
But it all goes back to starting pitching, which has ruined the Twins' season.
"Coming out to the game, I feel prepared," Hendriks said. "I've thrown well in warmups. And I get out to the game, and something changes. I give up a couple, I start getting into a groove and I start getting that little aggressiveness back. I need to start that from the get-go. It's just one of those things -- I throw well in a couple, and I just hang a pitch, and Bob's your uncle there."