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Minnesota Twins designated hitter Kendrys Morales hits a one-run single against the Detroit Tigers in the sixth inning of a baseball game in Detroit, Sunday, June 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

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Hartman: Hitting, not pitching, has been the Twins' downfall

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN
  • Star Tribune
  • June 19, 2014 - 12:57 AM

Like former Twins manager Tom Kelly has said many times, and it has turned out to be true: a large percentage of the time, if you pitch well you will win.

Well, Twins General Manager Terry Ryan believes in the theory, so he spent big money for pitching this offseason, including signing Ricky Nolasco for $49 million over four years and Phil Hughes for $24 million over three years.

The pitching the Twins have received during their five-game losing streak compares favorably with even their World Series squads, but the hitting has gone in the tank.

Twins starters allowed 17 runs over 54 ⅔ innings on the nine-game road trip, good for a 2.82 ERA. They allowed only 10 walks while striking out 43. If you take out Samuel Deduno’s performance in which he allowed seven runs over 2 ⅔ innings in a loss to Detroit, the starters’ ERA over 52 innings was 1.35.

The Twins went 3-1 to start the trip, and the offense was producing, hitting .275 through those games with five home runs, 16 RBI, eight doubles and a triple.

But then the hitting fell apart. The Twins lost five in a row, capped by a 2-1, 10-inning loss to Boston on Wednesday, and finished 3-6 on what began as a promising road trip.

In those five losses, the Twins hit .183 with two homers, 13 RBI, six doubles and one walk. It is even more glaring when you look at their performance over the past four games, during which they were 18-for-126 (a .143 average) with only five RBI.

Brian Dozier, Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham have been on truly bad streaks of late. Dozier is 0-for-13 in his past four games, Mauer went 1-for-9 in Boston, and Willingham is 1-for-16 over his past five games. Oswaldo Arcia, a real bright light for the team when he was called up from Class AAA Rochester, also is in a 2-for-32 slump. Arcia’s batting average has dropped from .302 on June 5 to .221, which left him benched for the series finale in Boston.

Started strong

After their series victory in Toronto and a series-opening 2-0 win in Detroit on Friday, the Twins had moved within one game of .500, and things clearly were starting to look up for Ron Gardenhire’s club.

Nolasco kept the team in the first game at Toronto, allowing four runs over 5 ⅔ innings. Kevin Correia pitched six scoreless innings in a 4-0 victory in the second game, and Hughes followed that with a stellar seven scoreless innings in a 7-2 win to take the series.

Kyle Gibson continued the trend in the team’s first game in Detroit, a 2-0 gem in which he pitched seven scoreless innings and picked up only his second road victory.

Deduno’s rocky start came the next day in a 12-9 loss to Detroit — an outing that got him demoted to the bullpen. And although the offense scored nine runs, most of them came late in the game after the outcome was decided.

In the series finale at Detroit, Nolasco once again pitched well enough in a loss, giving up three runs on nine hits over 5 ⅓ innings, but an error in the ninth inning lead to the first of four consecutive one-run losses for the Twins.

The Twins managed only three hits in their series-opening 1-0 loss at Boston, so Correia’s one-run effort over six innings was wasted. On Tuesday, Hughes continued his stellar streak by pitching a complete game and allowing two runs on eight hits. But the Twins offense managed only four hits off starter Jon Lester, and the Boston bullpen pitched 2 ⅔ innings of hitless relief to secure the win.

Wednesday’s loss was just as frustrating because Gibson stretched his scoreless streak to 22 innings, giving up only one hit with no walks over seven innings and striking out eight. It was easily his best start of the season. But once again, the Twins’ offense was nowhere to be found. The Twins managed only four hits, three of them from Chris Parmelee, who broke a scoreless tie in the 10th inning with a solo home run.

That homer came off Red Sox closer Koji Uehara, easily the best relief pitcher in the American League, who had not allowed a run since May 1. But Casey Fien gave up back-to-back homers to David Ortiz and Mike Napoli, and the Twins season hit a new low, falling six games below .500.

The pitching has been there for the Twins lately — even struggling starters Nolasco and Correia have turned in quality efforts while Hughes and Gibson have been dominant. But not even the best pitchers will win when an offense disappears like the Twins has recently.

Jottings

• Recruiting for college basketball resumed on June 15, and the word is that Gophers coach Richard Pitino made a phone call to Hopkins small forward Amir Coffey after midnight that morning, the earliest that coaches could call athletes. Apparently Coffey, who is ranked 31st in the nation by ESPN in the Class of 2016, was the first recruit Pitino called, an indication of how important he believes the son of former Gopher Richard Coffey is to the future of his program.

• Former Gophers quarterback and wide receiver MarQueis Gray has been taking most of his snaps at fullback during the Cleveland Browns’ minicamp even though he does some work at tight end, where he played last season. The Browns coaches compare Gray to the Miami Dolphins’ Charles Clay, a hybrid fullback-tight end who caught 69 passes for 759 yards and six touchdowns in 2013.

• The Gophers men’s track and field team had five All-Americas selected by the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Association. First-team All-Americas were former basketball player Wally Ellenson, who finished second in the high jump in the NCAA outdoor championships; Zach Siegmeier, the two-time Big Ten outdoor pole vault champion who tied for fifth in the NCAA meet; and John Simons, who finished seventh in the 1,500 meters. Second-team honors went to Dominique Howard, who finished ninth in the discus, and Jon Lehman, who finished 10th in the hammer throw.

• Desmond Gant, the East Aurora, Ill., football player who recently signed with the Gophers, had to wait to join the team until graduating from high school because he had to resolve some academic issues. Gant was all-state honorable mention at defensive back and had 41 tackles last season. He also caught three TD passes.

 

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40, 8:40 and 9:20 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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