Heading into Thursday's rubber match, the Twins' hope was to try and help salvage some of what has been a nightmarish type road trip. What they found was yet another game where the team fell behind -- and early.
Hernandez (6-4) found only a little trouble in this first two innings. He gave up one run in the second when Kelly Shoppach delivered an RBI single to center field to give Cleveland a 1-0 lead.
But it was a five-run third inning by the Tribe that really hurt the crafty right-hander. Two straight hits started the inning, but most of the trouble came with one out. Following another single by David Delluci to load the bases, Jhonny Peralta hit single to left field off Hernandez that scored two runs.
With both runners having advanced on a throwing error by left fielder Jason Kubel, Hernandez had first base open when Shin-Soo Choo came up to the plate. But Hernandez left another ball up in the zone that Choo belted for his second home run of the season, a three-run shot to right field that finished off the big inning.
"They are kind of killing him right now," manager Ron Gardenhire said of Hernandez. "This is a few outings in a row here where he hasn't had much success. We've got to get him back on track. He's a veteran and we need him to give us better chances to win ballgames. It's just not going his way, and we got hammered for it."
The 12 hits marked the fourth time in his last five starts that Hernandez has allowed double-digit hits. He's been tagged for at least five earned runs in each of those outings, posting an 8.51 ERA over that span. Only twice in that span has Hernandez pitched at least six innings.
"I apologize to the organization, because I know I expect something better from me," Hernandez said. "I won a lot of games early and now I'm struggling. I'm sorry. It's like I'm not trying. I do the best I can. If somebody is mad at me or [angry] I'm not doing my job, I'm sorry. I try and try. I know it's going to be better."
By the time Hernandez left the game after giving up a home run to Grady Sizemore to lead off the fourth and then two straight singles, the Twins trailed, 7-0.
Hernandez was left to head to the clubhouse, where he wasn't happy with some things he heard being said on TV.
The pitcher claimed that one of the Cleveland announcers brought up something about his age (33) and the World Series in 1997 in which Hernandez pitched for the Marlins. Hernandez wasn't very specific about exactly what was said and didn't know which of the two Indians broadcasters, Matt Underwood or Rick Manning, made the comments.
But the tone was clear.
"This is a few outings in a row here where [Livan] hasn't had much success. We've got to get him back on track. He's a veteran and we need him to give us better chances to win ballgames."
-- manager Ron Gardenhire
"If you got something to say, say it to my face," Hernandez said. "If you got a problem with me, got something to say to me about the World Series in '97, do it like a man. You don't have to wait to throw everything out and say it on TV."
With Hernanez in the clubhouse, the Twins were left to deal with the deficit.
Getting into such a deep hole early in the ballgame seemed eerily reminiscent of the letdowns the team suffered in a four-game sweep by the White Sox in Chicago to start the trip. And seeing it happen again was, without doubt, a disappointment.
Following the loss, Minnesota is now 1-6 on its current 10-game road trip, dropping two of three in Cleveland.
"I know we struggled in Chicago mightily, but then we come in the first night [in Cleveland] and got a good pitching performance. And [Wednesday, Nick Blackburn] gave us six good innings," Gardenhire said. "Then tonight, to just get blasted away was not what you are looking for. You just want opportunities to win a series here, and we kind of got that taken away early."
The Twins have had problems against left-handed pitching this season, and it continued Thursday night against Indians starter Aaron Laffey. The rookie southpaw scattered just five hits over six innings, giving up his lone run on Matt Macri's first big league home run in the fifth.
But it wasn't until after both starters had departed that things started to get heated between the two clubs.
With the Twins trailing, 12-1, in the top of the eighth following more bullpen troubles, second baseman Alexi Casilla was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. It ended Casilla's chance at extending his career-high 13-game hitting streak and came after one Indians batter, second baseman Jamey Carroll, had been hit in the fifth inning to load the bases with two outs.
"You don't ever want to see any of your teammates hit," Michael Cuddyer said. "If it was intentional, you don't want to see that. And you know, I don't know if it was retaliation, because unfortunately we hit their second baseman. I know we didn't hit that guy on purpose to load the bases, there is no rhyme or reason to hit [Casilla] there. So for them to do that, if it was intentional, is not appreciated, I guess."
After the Twins tallied one run off the Indians' bullpen in the top half of the inning, left-hander Dennys Reyes then came in to pitch the bottom of the eighth for Minnesota. And on the first pitch, he struck Andy Marte with an inside fastball.
Pitching inside is something the Twins had stressed to their pitching staff during the club's series in Chicago, but this seemed to be a bit more than that. Both benches were warned on the play and the opposing managers exchanged heated words across the field from their own dugouts.
Gardenhire didn't want to comment on what was said after the game, but clearly there was some lingering tension between two teams who have some history.
Whether it might linger into the next time the two meet in a three-game series on July 4-6 at the Metrodome seemed to be the biggest question following the loss.
"We'll see," Cuddyer said. "You never know until that comes. It's baseball, both teams are playing hard. We play each other a lot and we've always had tight, competitive series. When you play a team a lot and play them tight, you are going to have things like that happen."