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La Velle E. Neal III and Phil Miller report on the Twins from wherever they make news

Twins remind themselves they've fought out of worse slumps

    Another quiet night for the Twins’ offense. Here are some opinions from the Twins’ clubhouse:

    — There were a lot of stiff upper lips in the Twins’ clubhouse tonight, but nobody seemed to be taking the 5-12 record since the All-Star break too hard. As more than one player pointed out, things were even worse during the first week of the season — remember, they were outscored 22-1 in their season-opening series in Detroit — and they managed to turn things around.

    “We’ve been there before. Our first series of the year, we were kind of written off at that point. But we stuck together as a group and played well,” said Phil Hughes, whose personal six-game winning streak came to an end with Tuesday’s 3-1 loss. “We look at the big picture, what we have ahead of ourselves. We just have to win. We have to win every game we possibly can so we’re not worried about what other people are doing.”

    Added Trevor Plouffe, “We’re still in good position. There’s still a lot of baseball left. The thing we’ve done great all year is not worry about what happened the day before. We’re not going to let it get to us now.”

    Does it hurt that after three months of owning a playoff spot, the Twins are no longer a wild-card team, at least temporarily?

    “Not really,” Plouffe said. “We’re looking forward to being in that playoff spot the last day of the regular season. That’s all that really matters.”

    — I tried to suggest to Hughes that he pitched well enough to win on Tuesday, that this wasn’t a worse outing — three runs, five hits over 5 2/3 innings — than some of the games during his winning streak. Hughes turned the question on its head. Yes, he agreed, he’s been lucky to win games he’s pitched poorly, but didn’t deserve to win them, and didn’t deserve, he suggested, to win tonight.

    He allowed solo home runs to Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki, both of them the long-and-loud variety, but that isn’t what bothered him. “Not being able to execute that first pitch to [Toronto catcher Dioner] Navarro with a guy on third and two outs — that really was a turning point, I felt,” Hughes said. The sixth-inning pitch, a 91-mph fastball, bounced off the right field wall for a double, scoring Edwin Encarnacion with the Blue Jays’ third run. “A 2-1 game, you’re feeling all right about things, but you don’t want to let them get any more,” Hughes said. “I couldn’t make the pitch I wanted to there.”

    He said his command was off all night, and his changeup — which he rarely threw before this season — was probably his most effective pitch, perhaps the first time, he said, that’s been true in his career.

    — Interesting that manager Paul Molitor felt compelled to call a clubhouse meeting before the game, trying to keep his team from pressing too much as their slump gets deeper. He also said he’s considering making some changes, including to the lineup — but nothing too drastic. “I don’t want to send a message of panic,” he said.

    But he’s been thinking of some moves he might make, and we’ll see what he meant by that. “Sometimes there are times when you might have to do things a little bit differently. rather than tweaking,” Molitor said. “OK, let’s try something that might give us a different look.”

    Molitor hinted that it might include a new leadoff hitter. Brian Dozier is batting .217 since the All-Star break, and he’s 3-for-16 in August, so perhaps he would move down into a run-production slot, with an on-base hitter moving up.

Hughes tries to defend Twins' playoff spot tonight

    TORONTO — By beating the A’s on Monday, May 4, the Twins moved into a tie with Tampa Bay, at 14-12, for the second wild card spot in the American League. Exactly three months later, the Twins must win tonight or relinquish that postseason berth, at least for a day.

    The Twins have managed to hold on to at least a tie for the wild card spot for three months, even through a seven-loss-in-eight-games slump in June, even through a 1-4 start to the second half. But their current 2-7 skid has allowed Toronto and Baltimore to pull into a tie with the Twins, who enter tonight’s second game of this four-game series in Rogers Centre with, at least, their hottest starting pitcher on the mound.

    Phil Hughes has won six straight decisions, and if they haven’t all been gems — including his “five-and-dive” victory over Seattle last Thursday — at least the righthander has made a habit of keeping the Twins in games. But beware: Hughes’ AL-leading 25 home runs allowed makes him vulnerable against a power-laden Jays team.

    “It’s a challenging lineup to face, regardless of who you throw out there to start the game,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “Phil’s last start was not particularly as good. The good thing was that he didn’t have to throw a lot of pitches.”

    Yes, Hughes should be fresh, having thrown only 84 pitches last week in giving up 10 hits and five runs to the Mariners. The Twins will face Marco Estrada, an inconsistent righthander who has never started against the Twins.

    Joe Mauer returns to the Twins’ lineup tonight, batting second, while Eduardo Nunez takes over at shortstop for at least one game.

    Toronto manager John Gibbons has been suspended for one game and will not be in the Rogers Centre tonight. He received the penalty for returning to the field in the eighth inning Sunday when both benches cleared against the Royals, after having been ejected in the seventh inning. DeMarlo Hale, one of the finalists for Molitor’s job last winter, will be in charge of the Toronto dugout. Does that affect tonight’s game? Molitor smiled.

    “You know managers don’t make any difference,” he said.

    Here are tonight’s lineups:

TWINS

 

Dozier 2B

Mauer 1B

Plouffe 3B

Sano DH

Hunter RF

Rosario LF

Hicks CF

Suzuki C

Nunez SS

 

Hughes RHP

 

BLUE JAYS

 

Tulowitzki SS

Donaldson 3B

Bautista RF

Encarnacion 1B

Martin DH

Navarro C

Goins 2B

Pillar CF

Revere LF

 

Estrada RHP

Final, 8/4 R H E
Minnesota 54-52 1 2 0
Toronto 56-52 3 7 0

Today's Scoreboard

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  • Boston

    NY Yankees

     

    - F

    3

    13

  • LA Dodgers

    Philadelphia

     

    - F

    2

    6

  • Chicago Cubs

    Pittsburgh

     

    - F

    5

    0

  • Arizona

    Washington

     

    - F

    4

    5

  • Minnesota

    Toronto

     

    - F

    1

    3

  • Kansas City

    Detroit

     

    - F

    5

    1

  • San Francisco

    Atlanta

     

    - F

    8

    3

  • St. Louis

    Cincinnati

     

    - F

    2

    3

  • NY Mets

    Miami

     

    - F

    5

    1

  • Houston

    Texas

     

    - F

    3

    4

  • Tampa Bay

    Chicago White Sox

     

    - F

    11

    3

  • San Diego

    Milwaukee

     

    - F

    1

    4

  • Seattle

    Colorado

     

    - F

    10

    4

  • Cleveland

    LA Angels

     

    - F

    2

    0

  • Baltimore

    Oakland

     

    - F

    0

    5

  • San Antonio

    Connecticut

     

    - F

    51

    82

  • Indiana

    Chicago

     

    - F

    82

    106

  • Tulsa

    Phoenix

     

    - F

    84

    87

  • Minnesota

    Los Angeles

     

    - F

    61

    83

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