Nolasco rocky early, Twins' bats go silent throughout loss

Ricky Nolasco served up four runs in 6 2/3 innings for the Twins, who haven't scored since starting Tuesday's game with a five-run first inning.

The Twins began this series 5-for-5 with five runs scored. They were a juggernaut for about 15 minutes.

And that great but short-lived start could lead them to getting swept in a three-game series against Cleveland. After blowing a nice lead Tuesday, they were shut down Wednesday by lefthander T.J. House and the Indians bullpen in a 5-0 loss. The series ends Thursday when they meet one of the hottest pitchers in baseball in Corey Kluber.

Will the streak go on?

They scored five runs without making an out Tuesday, extending their push as the No. 2 scoring offense in August. But that means the Twins have been held scoreless in 17 consecutive innings, a run that could continue against Kluber, who throws one of the most effective curveballs in the game.

The Twins, who were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position Wednesday, need to find some offense quick, as they are now a season-low 15 games under .500.

“I feel like tonight, I felt like every inning we had runners on base,” Twins second baseman Brian Dozier said. “We just didn’t get any hits.”

Mike Aviles went 3-for-4 with a home run and Zach Walters added a home run as Cleveland improved to 7-5 against the Twins. The Twins have been shut out 10 times this season, six times by lefthanded starters. Keep in mind that Wednesday was the 41st time they faced a lefthanded starter. The other four shutouts have come during the 84 times they have faced righthanded starters.

“We’re under .500 against righties and lefties,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We haven’t played well.”

The Twins had two runners on with one out in the second but Eric Fryer struck out and Jordan Schafer tapped back to the mound. Joe Mauer ended the fifth with a tapper to short with two on. In the sixth, reliever C.C. Lee came on with two runners on to get Eduardo Escobar to fly out and Eric Fryer to ground out to third.

House (2-3) went 5⅓ innings, giving up four hits and three walks but piled up the zeros.

“We knew this coming in.” Dozier said. “Once he gets guys in scoring position he’s just all change ups and sliders. He’s got a good change up. We barreled a lot of balls up too. We just didn’t get any hits with people on.”

Righthander Ricky Nolasco fell to 5-9 with the loss. The early sounds suggested it was going to be a long night for him. Balls banged off the right-field scoreboard. One cleared it. Nolasco gave up four runs over 6⅔ innings including a solo home run to Walters in the second. But Nolasco settled down some later in his outing. He wasn’t as bad as several of his starts this season, but he’s still given up four earned runs 11 times this season.

“Once he settled in there, his breaking ball got better as he went along,” Gardenhire said. “He took something off the curveball and his fastball looked better.”

The Twins feel Nolasco, making his second start since coming off the disabled list, has something he can build on. After signing him to a four-year, $49 million contract during the offseason, the Twins want to see him finish strong.

It didn’t help Nolasco that he was pitching for the Men Without Bats on Wednesday.

“[Nolasco] was a positive for the night,” Gardenhire said. “Unfortunately we didn’t do anything offensively.”

 

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