Twins offense still isn't getting the message

A pregame meeting telling hitters to relax didn't do much to improve the team's anemic offense in the finale of a pitiful road trip.

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SEATTLE — The message was written in blue ink on the grease board in the visitors' clubhouse Sunday morning.

"11:00 -- Hitters meeting."

Twins hitting coach Joe Vavra called the meeting in an attempt to rally a group that was batting .113 over the first five games of a six-game road trip. He has watched hitters try too hard to get hits, only to dig themselves a deeper hole. Hitters usually meet before the first game of a series, not the last.

"Simplify," Vavra said. "That's what we're trying to do, get them to talk about each other's plans and then pull for each other and what they're trying to do. Understand collectively how we're going to attack them, so it's like a team offense rather than just a bunch of individual offenses. You put together a few hits that way, but you don't put together many runs if you don't have that."

Not enough players got the message Sunday. The Twins lost 5-2 to the Mariners to complete a 1-5 road trip, one in which they were no-hit Wednesday and one-hit Saturday.

After a clunker of a trip, the Twins headed back to the Twin Cities for a nine-game homestand. They will arrive home with more problems than they had when they left.

Prior to the road trip, there had been confidence that their offense would be functional. But it was virtually nonexistent this past week; they were outscored 31-8 over the six games.

Ryan Doumit was the only player who appeared to get the message Sunday. He went 3-for-3 with two solo home runs. Doumit's homer in the seventh inning was the first long ball by the Twins in 259 plate appearances going back to April 27, seven games earlier, when Trevor Plouffe homered against the Royals at Target Field.

Vavra has his work cut out for him as he tries to find the right buttons to push to generate more offense.

"I feel accountable," he said. "I take these things really hard, but then I start looking around and seeing guys taking it hard, too, and I'm like, 'wait a minute.' Maybe my job is to, 'Let's talk about it and simplify it a little bit.' "

An offense can be slowed down by its own pitching, and righthander Nick Blackburn had the Twins in a 4-0 hole after two innings. Seattle scored three runs on four hits in the first inning, then Mike Carp hit Blackburn's first pitch of the second into the seats in right for a home run.

That took away the Twins' option of stealing bases or moving runners over if they got on. They didn't get many on, making Seattle righthander Hector Noesi look much better than his 1-3 record and 7.83 ERA coming into the game.

The Twins coaching staff has been concerned lately that hitters have been getting away from the game plan and chasing pitches they should be taking.

"If you're looking for a fastball out over the plate, you can't swing at a fastball inside, or a slider down and in," acting manager Scott Ullger said. "You've got to get something out over the plate to coordinate your plan, your frame of mind."

That's why Vavra met with hitters before the game, to get them to relax and try to simplify things at the plate.

"Once you get guys in scoring position, I think guys are getting out of their approaches and trying too hard," Doumit said.

"Our meeting today was about relaxing.

"Everybody is here for a reason. Everyone that's on the club, they know how to hit. Just trust in that and relax. We're going through a bad patch right now. It's no secret, but you have to hit your way out of it."


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