Steep learning curve for Twins

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 21, 2011 - 11:16 PM

There's no substitute for experience, as the Twins are discovering with some inconsistent young players.

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On Sunday morning, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was asked if Saturday's 9-4 victory over the Yankees was particularly satisfying because of all the inexperienced players in his lineup.

"Well," Gardenhire said, "let's see how we do today."

Gardenhire and his staff are never quite sure what they're going to get, especially from the likes of Ben Revere, Trevor Plouffe, Danny Valencia, Rene Tosoni and Luke Hughes.

Sunday's 3-0 loss to the Yankees re-emphasized the point.

New York gave the Twins chances to split the series, but Minnesota couldn't capitalize and fell to 20-62 against the Yankees under Gardenhire, counting the postseason.

Gardenhire described his coaching staff's frustration in trying to get the inexperienced players to focus at all times -- offensively and defensively -- pay attention to scouting reports and anticipate what to do in every situation.

Gardenhire specifically referenced Plouffe misreading Joe Mauer's first-inning double off the right-field wall Saturday, advancing only from second to third. The manager noted that Mauer and Danny Valencia recently made the same baserunning mistake.

"They don't pay attention," Gardenhire said. "Maybe we have to be more forceful in the minor leagues about that stuff."

Despite losing Nick Blackburn because of a forearm injury in the second inning Sunday, the Twins kept the Yankees scoreless for five innings. Minnesota should have taken the lead in the fifth, after center fielder Curtis Granderson and right fielder Nick Swisher let Valencia's fly ball fall between them for a double, putting runners at second and third with no outs.

The Yankees pulled their middle infielders back, conceding a run, but righthander Ivan Nova (13-4) fanned Tosoni and Matt Tolbert before Drew Butera grounded weakly to first base, ending the inning.

Never mind that Tosoni is batting .191, Tolbert .210 and Butera .166. This went beyond batting average. Gardenhire noted that Tosoni had a good at-bat his next time up, hitting a ball to deep center field in the seventh.

"You're going to get some of that with young kids when they try to do a little too much with runners in scoring position," Gardenhire said. "Matty Tolbert, I'm surprised because normally he's pretty good about putting the ball in play, and he kind of was chasing pretty bad all day."

Russell Martin's sacrifice fly off Phil Dumatrait gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead in the sixth, before Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira hit back-to-back homers off Jose Mijares in the seventh.

Granderson's ball bounced high off the right-center wall, and shot right back past Revere and Jason Kubel, letting Granderson race home for the first inside-the-park homer at Target Field.

"I think Ben might have thought the ball was out of the ballpark and kind of relaxed a little bit," Gardenhire said. "Two outfielders, normally one goes for the ball and the other one backs up the play."

Revere went to the wall, when he should have been backing up Kubel on that play.

"You can't relax at all, and it looks like we did a little bit," Gardenhire said.

Call it a teachable moment, but add it to the list of reasons the Twins are 9-22 in their past 31 games.

Joe Christensen • jchristensen@startribune.com

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