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Updated: June 19th, 2012 9:32pm
Scott Diamond struggles for second straight start in loss to Pirates

Scott Diamond struggles for second straight start in loss to Pirates

by The Associated Press

PITTSBURGH - After allowing three earned runs or fewer in each of his first seven starts, Minnesota Twins left-hander Scott Diamond struggled for the second straight outing in Tuesday's 7-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The skinny

Diamond (5-3) gave up three runs in 5 1-3 innings to lose his second straight start. Denard Span hit a two-run homer for the Twins, who have dropped four of five.

The Twins began the night with the highest batting average in interleague play (.306) but mustered little against Kevin Correia, who pitched 5 1-3 shutout innings, allowing four hits to go with a walk and two strikeouts to earn his first victory at home in nearly a year.

Andrew McCutchen had three hits, including his 12th homer of the season, and Correia ended a lengthy winless streak at PNC Park for Pittsburgh.

Josh Harrison and Clint Barmes added three hits apiece for Pittsburgh, which has won three straight to climb four games above .500 (35-31).

Correia's only trouble spot came in the sixth inning, when a walk and a single put runners on the corners with one out, and he gave way to Tony Watson. The Twins loaded the bases before Watson struck out former Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit to end the threat.

Diamond wasn't nearly as crisp. The 25-year-old pitcher has been one of the few good stories this season for the underachieving Twins. He won five of his first seven starts thanks to impeccable control.

He had issues in a loss to the Phillies last week and kept the ball in the strike zone a little too much against the Pirates, who no longer look like one of the weakest offensive teams in the majors. Diamond gave up four runs, walked two and struck out one as his ERA rose from 2.13 to 2.57.

Pittsburgh, which was last in nearly every major statistical category for the first two months of the season, is third in the National League in runs scored in June, adding to the total on a night the ball had little trouble carrying through the oppressive heat.

Harrison gave the Pirates a 1-0 lead in the first with help from Minnesota leftfielder Josh Willingham. Harrison smacked Diamond's fastball toward the wall in left.

Willingham initially broke forward before giving chase. He leaped just as the ball caromed off the top of the wall. Instead of grabbing it, however, Willingham could only watch as the ball deflected into the stands for Harrison's second homer of the season.

Casey McGehee's sacrifice fly in the fifth gave the Pirates a 2-0 lead, and Pittsburgh pushed it to 4-0 an inning later. Barmes, who lifted his batting average to .200 for the first time this season, doubled in Pedro Alvarez, and Matt Hague grounded into a fielders' choice.

Span's two-run homer briefly made it interesting before McCutchen responded with a two-run shot of his own.

Numbers game

90: Home runs allowed by Twins pitchers this year -- a total that leads the major leagues.

376: Strikeouts for Twins pitchers this season, which ranks last in the major leagues.

.252/.341/.568: Trevor Plouffe's batting line after going 2-for-3 with two singles and a walk.

3: Home runs for Span

Health report

Joe Mauer has been battling a sore hamstring, but he did not start on Tuesday due to a quad contusion suffered in Sunday's home-plate collision with Rickie Weeks. He was available to pinch hit.

Matt Capps remains sidelined with shoulder soreness.

On deck

Wednesday: @ Pirates, 6:05 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano (1-7, 6.24) vs. LHP Erik Bedard (4-7, 4.36)
Thursday: @ Pirates, 6:05 p.m. RHP Liam Hendriks (0-3, 7.83) vs. RHP James McDonald (5-3, 2.32)
Friday: @ Reds, 6:10 p.m. RHP Nick Blackburn (3-4, 7.48) vs. RHP Homer Bailey (5-4, 4.03)

© The Associated Press