The pitching will come around, the Twins tell themselves. The veterans will settle in, and the ballpark will help.
But the starting pitchers keep piling up evidence to the contrary.
For the seventh time in eight games, a Twins starting pitcher failed to deliver a quality start, and Friday night’s game was one of the worst. Kevin Correia retired only seven batters while allowing eight to score, and Detroit coasted to a 10-6 victory at Target Field that dropped the Twins back to .500 once more.
The Twins offense has been one of the bigger surprises of the season’s first month, and it piled up a half-dozen runs for the sixth time in nine games. So consistent has the run production been, the name Kirby Puckett was invoked Friday, as a milepost on Chris Colabello’s magical start; when he singled in Joe Mauer in the sixth inning to earn his 27th RBI, he broke the Hall of Famer’s 20-year-old team record for April RBI.
But the American League’s second-highest scoring offense isn’t enough to offset a starting rotation that so far actually has been even less effective than in 2013. The Twins starting pitchers’ ERA stands at 6.32 — more than a full run worse than last year’s worst-in-baseball 5.26.
Mike Pelfrey owns a 7.32 ERA. Free-agent signees Ricky Nolasco, at 6.67 after giving up six runs Thursday at Tampa Bay, and Phil Hughes, at 6.43, aren’t much better.
Correia’s own ERA ballooned by nearly two runs to 7.33 on the season during his least effective start with the Twins, and the trouble started early for the veteran righthander.
“I just wasn’t able to hit any of my spots,” Correia said after falling to 0-3. “I can’t pitch like that against that team, I’m going to get hit around. Balls were missing over the middle, and it caught up to me.”
After Colabello dropped a fly ball for an error to open the second inning, Detroit third baseman Nick Castellanos rocketed a line drive into the right-field seats, the second home run Correia has given up this year.
“Kevin was kind of up and out and over the plate an awful lot, and those guys shot the ball to right field, they shot it pretty much everywhere,” manager Ron Gardenhire said after asking for 6 ⅔ innings from his bullpen. “He just couldn’t get the ball down, couldn’t get the ball on the inner half of the plate, and they make you pay for it.”
The Tigers offense has been rebuilt with Ian Kinsler at the top and Austin Jackson and Castellanos in the middle, and it’s a more versatile bunch than the pull-happy team that had Prince Fielder. They peppered Twins pitching with hits all over the park, four of them in gaps for doubles.
“Their lineup does set up a lot differently. The majority of balls they hit are the other way,” Correia said. “It’s an adjustment I need to make.”
Correia escaped further damage in the second inning after Alex Avila did the Twins a favor trying to score from first base on Andrew Romine’s double, only to get thrown out at home. But things got much worse in the third, when Detroit sent 11 batters up and scored seven runs, the Twins’ worst inning of the season. Two doubles, two singles and back-to-back walks ended Correia’s night, and he was clearly frustrated walking off the field.
“It’s one thing to get hit around, but I’m not going to give you free bases,” said Correia, who last year was 3-1 with a 2.23 ERA after his first five starts. This year, he has yet to give up fewer than three runs in a game.
“Normally he pounds the strike zone, moves the ball,” Gardenhire said. “It was just out and over, and every time he made a mistake, they made him pay for it.”