Ricky Nolasco hasn’t performed like a pitcher deserving of the richest free-agent contract in Twins history. His 18th start Sunday was just as dreadful as his season.
The righthander had his worst outing this year, giving up six runs in two innings, in a 9-7 loss to the Yankees at Target Field.
Nolasco, who signed a four-year deal worth $49 million in the offseason, threw a mere 42 pitches against 13 batters. Only 25 of his pitches were strikes.
“He did nothing,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He didn’t have anything, and nothing was coming out of his hand. They hit everything he threw up there.”
Nolasco allowed the first two batters on base to start both innings, and that resulted in four of the six runs New York scored against him. It was the fifth time in his past six starts Nolasco has given up a first-inning run.
Down 2-0, Nolasco loaded the bases with three consecutive singles in the second. Following Derek Jeter’s sacrifice fly that gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a three-run homer to right.
“It was a bad one,” Nolasco said. “I didn’t have anything, but that’s no excuse. Usually you battle and try to find a way. I had a couple bad innings, and that’s all I had when I go back out and try to battle.”
It was the worst start for Nolasco since last Sept. 14, when he lasted 1 ⅓ innings with the Dodgers, giving up seven runs (five earned) on seven hits against the Giants. Gardenhire said after the game the team has discussed different options with Nolasco, including the possibility of putting him in the bullpen. The loss dropped him to 5-7 with a 5.90 ERA.
“It starts with him,” Gardenhire said. “He’s got to do a better job. Bottom line is he’s got to figure out something because today wasn’t any good at all. He didn’t do anything. He didn’t locate anything. They were all over every pitch.”
The Twins trailed 9-0 in the fourth before scoring four runs that inning, highlighted by Chris Colabello’s two-run homer. They added three more runs the rest of the way, including a solo shot by Trevor Plouffe in the eighth that made it 9-6.
With the Twins down to their final out in the ninth with two on, Oswaldo Arcia looped a single to right to score Eduardo Nunez and trim the deficit to 9-7. With the potential winning run at the plate, Kurt Suzuki — who later Sunday would be selected for his first All-Star Game — grounded out to shortstop to end the game.
“You can’t keep getting behind like this,” Gardenhire said. “It just gets back to that. It’s the starting pitching and not about anything other than that.”