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Updated: June 1st, 2011 9:22pm
Twins Daily: Poor pitching, Thome's quad and odd gaffes highlight loss

Twins Daily: Poor pitching, Thome's quad and odd gaffes highlight loss

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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Early mistakes by Scott Baker, a missed opportunity in the seventh inning by the offense, and a series of bizarre gaffes throughout the game were enough to propel the Detroit Tigers to a 4-2 win and a series sweep over the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday night.

The skinny

If nothing else, the Twins certainly keep finding new, creative ways to lose games.

On Wednesday, it was a combination of poor pitching, a benign offense, an untimely injury and some head-scratching gaffes that did the Twins in.

The poor pitching came courtesy of Baker, who allowed four earned runs -- all in the first three innings -- on seven hits and three walks while striking out five in six innings.

The head-scratching gaffes came from a number of sources -- Drew Butera diving out of the way of a foul pop in the third inning, Delmon Young dropping a fly ball two batters later, and Alexi Casilla trying unsuccessfully to drop down a two-strike bunt in the ninth inning.

And on top of it all, after Butera's unlikely two-run homer cut the Tigers' lead to 4-2 in the top of the seventh inning, the Twins kept the momentum rolling by loading the bases with two outs. But manager Ron Gardenhire was forced to send Trevor Plouffe to the plate to pinch hit in place of Jim Thome, who left after the sixth inning with a mile quad strain.

Plouffe struck out to end the rally.

And the Twins (17-37) now sit 20 games under .500.

Turning point

Two walks and a blast buried Baker and the Twins in the third inning.

Already trailing 1-0, Baker walked Ramon Santiago and Brennan Boesch with one out in the bottom of the third inning, bringing Miguel Cabrera and his .987 OPS to the plate.

Cabrera promptly drove the second pitch he saw over the fence in left field to give the Tigers a 4-0 lead they would not relinquish.

Injuries, gaffes and offensive ineptitude would follow, but it was Cabrera's blast that put this game to bed.

Numbers game

9: The Twins' current losing streak to the Tigers.

51: The number of wins the Twins are on pace to rack up at their current pace. Wednesday marked the one-third point of the season.

1: Home runs this season for Butera. Heading into Wednesday, Butera's .330 OPS ranked .158 points lower than the lowest-qualified OPS in the major leagues -- Chone Figgins (.488).

Health report

• Thome left Wednesday's game in the sixth inning with a mild left quad strain, according to Fox Sports North. Gardenhire told reporters after the game, via Fox Sports North, that the team will "definitely" place either Thome or Jason Kubel (sprained foot) on the disabled list prior to Thursday's game in Kansas City.

• C Joe Mauer (leg weakness, general soreness) is expected to catch three innings in an extended spring game on Thursday. Mauer has taken at-bats as a designated hitter in Florida, but he has not caught in a game since landing on the disabled list nearly two months ago. "We'll see how everything goes there," Gardenhire told reporters. "He'll get some at-bats and catch a ballgame and block some balls -- the whole package. And we'll steadily move forward and get him playing a full nine innings, and we'll go from there."

Per MLB.com, left-hander Glen Perkins (oblique) has begun throwing off a mound, and left-hander Francisco Liriano (shoulder inflammation) is expected to play catch Thursday with a bullpen session to follow on Saturday. It's possible Liriano could start again Tuesday.

On deck

The Twins will pick up the pieces, again, and travel to Kansas City for a four-game series with the Royals starting on Thursday (7:10 p.m., 1500 ESPN).

Right-hander Anthony Swarzak (0-2, 3.60 ERA) will take the ball once again for Liriano, who was placed on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. Swarzak, who nearly threw a no-hitter in an emergency start on Saturday, said he's willing to take the ball anytime, anywhere, as long as he remains in the big leagues. "If they want me to start, I'll start," Swarzak said. "If they want me to pitch in the fifth inning, the ninth inning, I don't give a crap. I just want to pitch."

Swarzak's opponent, right-hander Sean O'Sullivan (2-4, 6.75), began the season in the bullpen, then rolled off four consecutive solid starts after being placed in the starting rotation on April 16, but the wheels have since come off. Over his last three starts, O'Sullivan has a 13.80 ERA with three strikeouts, eight walks, 31 hits allowed and seven home runs given up in 15 innings.

Coming up

• Friday: vs. Kansas City, 7:10 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano (2-5, 5.19) vs. LHP Danny Duffy (0-0, 4.11).
• Saturday: vs. Kansas City, 6:10 p.m. RHP Nick Blackburn (4-4, 3.57) vs. RHP Luke Hochevar (3-5, 4.96).
• Sunday: vs. Kansas City, 1:10 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (2-5, 5.37) vs. LHP Jeff Francis (2-5, 4.46).

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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