At 6-18, Twins grasping for answers

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 4, 2012 - 12:00 AM

Getting victimized by a no-hitter is just the latest symptom in the team's full-bore malfunction that shows no sign of turning around.

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Angels starting pitcher Jered Weaver celebrated his no-hitter against the Twins with catcher Chris Iannetta on Wednesday night.

Photo: Chris Carlson, Associated Press

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ANAHEIM, CALIF. - The Twins just spent three days in Southern California and never saw the sun.

Clouds hovered over Angel Stadium all week, and the gathering gloom only intensified for the Twins, who got swept for the fourth time in four weeks, dropping their major league-worst record to 6-18.

Late Wednesday night, the Twins somehow reached a new low, getting no-hit by Jered Weaver in a 9-0 loss that left manager Ron Gardenhire fuming -- and ran the team's hitless streak to 15 innings.

"A terrible night for Twins baseball," Gardenhire said. "We got dominated by a very good pitcher over there, but we played terrible."

Gardenhire, who was furious with his pitchers' inability to hold baserunners despite repeated warnings from the bench, said the team "looked like Little Leaguers out there" before abruptly ending his postgame news conference.

The most damning comment might have come came from Weaver. The righthander, who finished second in American League Cy Young Award voting last year, was explaining how he never had to shake off a sign from catcher Chris Iannetta, especially after the Angels jumped to a quick 6-0 lead.

"It was an easy ride," Weaver said.

Yes, playing a short drive from Disneyland, the Twins were about as intimidating as "It's a Small World."

On Monday, they went scoreless for the first seven innings against Angels lefthander C.J. Wilson in an eventual 4-3 loss. In Tuesday's 4-0 defeat, Angels journeyman Jerome Williams tossed a three-hitter for his first shutout since 2003.

The Twins didn't get a hit after the third inning against Williams, so it has been 15 innings and 48 plate appearances since they got their last hit.

Make no mistake, the offense has been bad. The Twins, who are 1-9 in their past 10 games, rank second-to-last in AL scoring at 3.62 runs per game. But run prevention remains an even bigger problem, as the Twins ranked dead last in the majors, giving up 5.71 runs per game.

Their starting pitching has the highest ERA in the majors, at 7.06. When teams keep falling in an early hole, it adds pressure to the offense to keep up and reduces chances to manufacture runs. Teams are less likely to bunt and steal when they're trailing by multiple runs.

On Monday, the Angels had a 3-0 lead by the fourth inning against Nick Blackburn. On Tuesday, it was 4-0 by the third inning against Francisco Liriano. And on Wednesday, it was 6-0 by the third inning against Liam Hendriks.

"He just didn't pitch well," Gardenhire said of Hendriks, who is 0-4 with a 7.80 ERA in eight major league starts. "The kid didn't get anything done."

On Twitter, some Twins fans have publicly pronounced themselves finished with the team. Others have called for Gardenhire and hitting coach Joe Vavra to be fired.

On Thursday, team President Dave St. Peter tweeted (@TwinsPrez): "Truly appreciate passion and angst expressed by Twins fans. We share your frustration and expect improved play. Better days ahead. #Keepthefaith."

How about some reinforcements from Class AAA Rochester? Well, the Red Wings' victory Thursday ended an eight-game losing streak. General Manager Terry Ryan has been in Rochester this week, watching that team struggle, too.

The Twins had an off-day Thursday to regroup before beginning a three-game series in Seattle on Friday. Bench coach Scott Ullger will manage the team this weekend, while Gardenhire attends his youngest daughter's college graduation from Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.

Gardenhire will return Monday, when the Angels visit Target Field. Weaver is scheduled to pitch that night, opposite Liriano.

The only pitcher in major league history to throw back-to-back no-hitters was Cincinnati's Johnny Vander Meer in 1938. But if the Twins don't figure things out this weekend, Weaver will be looking forward to another "easy ride."

Joe Christensen • jchristensen@startribune.com

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