Hernandez, hitters struggle vs. Rangers

Hernandez, hitters struggle vs. Rangers

ARLINGTON -- When the Twins arrived in Texas on Friday for a three-game set with the Rangers, it appeared to be perfect timing.

The Rangers were coming off a road trip in which they had lost seven straight games. And the Twins had appeared close to getting things turned around offensively during the first three games of their road trip in Oakland.

So it seemed like the team might finally be ready to put together a winning stretch of baseball.

Instead, the Twins watched as their starting pitching continued to struggle and their inconsistent offense went hot and cold for yet another series loss.

One day after setting a season high in hits and tying a season high in runs scored, the Twins offense could find no solution for Rangers starter Vicente Padilla on Sunday afternoon. The right-hander pitched a shutout as the Twins fell, 10-0, to Texas, finishing their six-game road trip with their fourth loss.

"Going 2-4 is not what we were hoping to do, certainly," second baseman Brendan Harris said. "Hopefully, we can get everybody back healthy after some injuries and the flu bug. We play well at home, and hopefully, we can get things going there."

After appearing to have finally gotten the offense to click on Saturday night in a 12-6 win, the Twins didn't have a chance to see if they could continue that hot spell, thanks to a very rough outing by starter Livan Hernandez.

Hernandez gave up seven earned runs on nine hits in just 2 2/3 innings against the Rangers and put the team in a very deep hole early in the contest.

The veteran right-hander gave up back-to-back, one-out singles in the first to Michael Young and Josh Hamilton. Milton Bradley then came to the plate and blasted his second home run of the season, a three-run shot to right-center field.

Hernandez (3-1) allowed three more runs in the second inning, courtesy of some bloops and other hits falling in, but it was more problems in the third that caused his day to end early. After allowing a solo home run to Jason Botts, who entered the game hitting .147, Hernandez put runners on first and second with two outs. He was then taken out of the game, having thrown a total of 74 pitches.

"I know I'm better than that," Hernandez said. "It's a bad day. You make it difficult for your team to come back and score some runs."

The Twins were only able to tally seven hits off Padilla in the contest and never appeared on the verge of breaking out offensively. But Twins manager Ron Gardenhire blamed that on getting into such a deep hole early.

"The game starts getting out of whack, and it makes it easier for [Padilla] to throw the ball over the plate," Gardenhrie said. "You can't put much pressure on him. You can't run, you can't do anything. Once it starts getting out of whack, you just have to hit. And we couldn't do that."

With Hernandez's problems, the Twins were forced to go to their already-taxed bullpen. Before the game, Gardenhire said that right-handers Pat Neshek, Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier and left-hander Dennys Reyes were all unavailable.

Instead, the Twins turned to Brian Bass, who pitched 2 2/3 innings, giving up two runs on four hits. Bobby Korecky pitched for the second straight day and did not allow a run over his 1 2/3 innings. Joe Nathan then came in for the eighth and recorded one inning of work, surrendering a solo shot to Hamilton. It was the first run that Nathan has allowed in nine appearances this season.

"Our bullpen is overworked, to say the least," Gardenhire said. "We can't keep going to them for five or six innings a game. That won't work."

Pitching-wise, it has been a difficult stretch for Minnesota.

The Twins starters had been a big reason for the team's ability to battle through some early offensive woes. But following Sunday's loss, the Twins starting pitchers are now 0-3 with an 8.27 ERA over their last seven contests, having pitched just a total of 32 2/3 innings over that span.

The group has not recorded a win since Nick Blackburn picked up a "W" over the Indians on April 19.

"I think coming out of spring, we got a lot from them early," Gardenhire said of his starting staff. "And I expect them to be good. I think we have good arms. We're just going through a bit of a hiccup here. Hopefully, it will be over with as we'll get back home and throw the ball better."

Sunday's game marked Hernandez's first loss of the season and the first time the Twins had not picked up a victory with him on the mound.

But while the starters have hit a rough spell, Hernandez said the key for the staff is not to let the difficult road trip carry over into their next starts.

"Tomorrow is a new day, and you have to come back and make adjustments," Hernandez said. "You watch the video and see what you do bad. You know, I think the young guys have to think like that, too. I try to talk to the people about that, like [Francisco] Liriano and other guys. When you have a bad day, you just have to forget about it and come back and work to get better."

The Twins will now enter a stretch where they have three off-days over the course of eight days. That includes a day off on Monday, one that they hope will help their taxed bullpen to regroup.

While it's not the way the team wanted to head into that stretch, following a difficult road trip, the team did take some positives out of the six games. Despite Sunday's blowout loss, the Twins were very close to finishing with a 4-2 record on the trip instead of a 2-4 one.

"So far this season, we've been there. We just haven't been able to get over the hump," Michael Cuddyer said. "We should have won and could have won a lot of our games. We just couldn't get over the hump. Hopefully, we'll be able to do that as the season goes along."

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.