Twins catcher Drew Butera went out to the mound in the first inning Wednesday to calm Francisco Liriano, who faced nine batters and gave up four runs.

Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune


Today's doubleheader: 12:10, 7:10 p.m. today • Target Field • TV: FSN (1500ESPN)

Twins endure blizzard of bad news

  • Article by: LA VELLE E. NEAL III
  • Star Tribune
  • April 28, 2011 - 9:11 AM

Twins lefthander Francisco Liriano had trouble getting warmed up on Wednesday. His velocity was down as Tampa Bay hitters got ahead in the count and went into attack mode.

And things just snowballed from there.

Snowball, that's an interesting word. The game-time temperature was 40 degrees. By the fourth inning, the fluffy stuff started to fall.

At least the snow didn't accumulate. Only the Rays' hits, walks and runs did.

Fans could reach for their remote starters early as the Twins ended their three-game winning streak with an 8-2 loss to Tampa Bay.

An announced crowd of 36, 714 -- the second smallest of the season and in Target Field's short life -- watched Tampa Bay righthander Wade Davis limit their team to an RBI single by Jason Kubel over the first six innings in the wintry conditions.

They also watched Twins pitchers walk nine batters. Since 2000, Minnesota has walked nine or more batters just nine times, the last on May 15, 2009, against the Yankees in New York.

The Twins could point to their inability to get healthy -- Delmon Young was placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday because of a strained left oblique -- as a reason they can't get going. It's hard for manager Ron Gardenhire to see it that way.

"We didn't pitch," he said. "Our lineup didn't do anything. Our pitcher got us behind."

All nine Tampa Bay batters went to the plate in the first inning, and Liriano fell behind in the count to eight of them.

There was a double by Sam Fuld, an RBI single by Johnny Damon, a double by B.J. Upton, a two-run triple by Ben Zobrist and an RBI single by Sean Rodriguez that got the Rays out to a 4-0 lead.

Liriano seemed to settle down for two innings. In the fourth, he gave up a single and two walks -- as the fans booed -- to load the bases with no outs before being replaced by righthander Eric Hacker.

Hacker walked Damon to force in a run, as the fans booed.

Hacker walked Upton to force in another run, as the fans booed.

Zobrist followed with a sacrifice fly to make the score 7-1.

Gardenhire said that the team has to get Liriano's confidence up -- he gave up seven runs over three innings on Wednesday and has lost seven of his past eight starts going back to last year.

Liriano said confidence was not a problem. Instead, he said he missed spots and struggled with the cold weather.

"I didn't feel the ball in my hand the first inning,'' he said. "I just tried to grab the ball and go quick to the plate and see if I got loose. It just didn't happen.''

The Twins hoped to hold on to Hacker for one more day so he could start the second game of Thursday's day-night doubleheader, the second game a make-up for the one that was rained out Tuesday.

Hacker went 3 1/3 innings, and his 79 pitches make it impossible for him to start on Thursday.

Hacker was optioned to Class AAA Rochester after the game, with righthander Anthony Swarzak being called up from there to start the doubleheader's second game on short rest.

The Twins have an extra pitcher, but they might not have the services of slugger Jim Thome (mild left oblique strain) or Jason Repko (sore left quadriceps). Not good when there are two games scheduled.

"I'm worried about everybody,'' Gardenhire said on Wednesday night. "We have two games tomorrow. We have a lot to worry about.''

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