Twins bats quiet again as their skid reaches nine

The struggling offense was no match for Michael Pineda, who pitched seven shutout innings. Now, the Cy Young winner awaits.

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SEATTLE - They were punished by the Prince on Monday and are softened up to be crowned by the King on Tuesday.

The Twins could head to Oakland late Tuesday with their first 10-game losing streak since Paul Molitor's final season. The run of futility reached nine games Monday, thanks to Seattle phenom Michael Pineda. Up next: the daunting task of ending their skid against Felix Hernandez, the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner.

Pineda and his 96 miles-per-hour fastballs made mincemeat of Twins hitters as the Mariners scratched out a 5-2 victory at Safeco Field. A 10th consecutive loss would tie the Twins' longest losing streak since Sept. 9-19, 1998, when they lost 10 in a row near the end of Molitor's long career.

"He shut us down pretty hard," manager Ron Gardenhire said of Pineda. "We didn't have many opportunities against him."

Pineda, 22, is blessed with imposing skills to match a 6-7, 255-pound body. He gave up three hits and struck out seven through seven shutout innings. Delmon Young was a strikeout victim three times.

Young has been abysmal since coming off the disabled list on Friday, going 1-for-15 with nine strikeouts in his past 10 plate appearances.

Pineda came right at Twins hitters all night and didn't get into much trouble until the sixth inning. When he did, he had a little luck on his side.

Trevor Plouffe reached on an error, Jason Kubel singled and Justin Morneau was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Michael Cuddyer. Cuddyer lined one up the middle that had RBI hit written all over it. Pineda deflected the ball to second baseman Adam Kennedy, who flipped to short for the inning-ending forceout.

In seven shutout innings, Pineda walked none and threw pitches, 70 for strikes. That's not messing around.

Pineda hasn't been officially anointed with a nickname yet, but "Prince" is starting to be thrown around town. Let's go with it here. Because King Felix is now up.

Hernandez was 13-12 with a 2.27 ERA last season in winning the AL Cy Young Award, and now might have a capable sidekick in Pineda. And the Mariners, who ended a six-game losing streak, are eyeing a sweep of the two-game series of a team with baseball's worst record -- a team that can't stop making mistakes.

After their latest loss, some Twins players came into the clubhouse swearing loudly. Gardenhire said he didn't mind that.

"They're frustrated, which is good, because it shows they care," Gardenhire said. "It was good to hear a little screaming and stuff after the game. The players are pretty fired up. Maybe that carries over to tomorrow and we start to get rolling offensively."

It was another night of embarrassing moments for the Twins. Seattle took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Jack Cust's double scored Chone Figgins. The Twins might have had a shot at Figgins, but second baseman Alexi Casilla double-clutched on the throw home.

Twins righthander Scott Baker gave up a run in the third on a RBI double by Justin Smoak to make it 2-0. In the sixth, Seattle hit back-to-back homers for the first time this season.

Kennedy, on a 0-1 pitch, got a belt-high fastball and drove it out to right as Seattle took a 3-0 lead. Carlos Peguero, down 1-2 in the count, yanked a Baker pitch just inside the foul pole in right and just over the wall to make it 4-0.

Baker walked two batters on Monday -- an improvement from the five he walked in his previous start. But one was to former Twins infielder Luis Rodriguez, who entered the game batting .180.

The Twins scored twice in the ninth, one on Figgins' throwing error and another on Danny Valencia's groundout, to avoid being shut out.

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    Up next: 9:10 tonight at Seattle • TV: FSN (1500ESPN)

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