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Updated: April 28th, 2011 9:41pm
Twins Daily: 'Somebody needs to step up' after Rays rule doubleheader

Twins Daily: 'Somebody needs to step up' after Rays rule doubleheader

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Ravaged by injuries, plagued by an offensive power outage, and saddled with sub-par pitching performances, the Minnesota Twins never gave themselves a chance in Thursday's day-night doubleheader sweep at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays.

The skinny

With zero help from a struggling offense, right-hander Nick Blackburn struggled to command his sinker en route to a Game 1 thrashing, 15-3.

In the nightcap, spot-starter Anthony Swarzak held his own for the better part of 5 1/3 innings on short rest, but the Twins were unable to tally so much as a hit off Rays right-hander Jeff Niemann until the seventh inning of a 6-1 loss.

All in all, Thursday's doubleheader was similar to Wednesday night's beatdown -- a dormant offense, combined with poor starting pitching. The Twins never really had a chance.

"Unfortunately for us we did nothing today -- no offense," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We got pounded in the first game and it just kind of carried over. Guys in the dugout were trying to pick each other up, hooting and hollering, but their pitcher shut us down. That doesn't make for a good night."

After being swept, the Twins (9-15) now own the worst record in the American League.

Turning point

The moment Tampa Bay's team bus pulled up to Target Field on Thursday morning.

"That was a straight old-fashioned beat down right there, man" Denard Span said. "They came in here and just put it to us."

Numbers game

1: The number of times, in 24 games, the Twins have scored more than five runs. "Maybe somebody needs to slap each other, I don't know," said Span, who is one of the lone hot bats in the Twins lineup. "Do something ... Somebody needs to step up, I know that. Somebody does. Hopefully it's me."

-47:
The Twins' run differential so far this season, which is by far the worst margin in baseball.

1:
The number of at bats it took for newly-recalled outfielder Rene Tosoni to tally his first major league hit. Tosoni finished the day 2-for-7, also tallying his first career RBI.

36: Pitches thrown by Blackburn in the first inning of Game 1 on Thursday.

5: Earned runs allowed by spot-starter Swarzak in 5 1/3 innings in Game 2. Pitching on short rest, Swarzak threw 95 pitches (55 strikes), allowing eight hits, one walk and two home runs while striking out one.

3.56: Walks per nine innings issued out by Twins pitchers prior to Thursday -- a mark that ranked 26th in the major leagues. Blackburn and company walked six in Game 1, but the staff walked just one in Game 2. The Twins' 2.37 walks per nine in 2010 were the fewest in baseball.

258: Pitches thrown by the Twins bullpen in the first two games of the series.

10: RBIs for Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist on Thursday, including eight in Game 1, which set a new club record. "We pitched him inside," Gardenhire said. "We pitched him outside. We threw him change-ups and breaking balls, and he pretty much hit everything we threw up there. Every mistake we made he killed it. Helluva series for him, but with a lot of others getting on base for him."

Health watch

• C Joe Mauer (viral infection, bilateral leg weakness) was eligible to come off the disabled list on Thursday, but he has not yet resumed baseball activities. Head athletic trainer Rick McWane said Mauer "is making progress," but there is still no timetable for his return. Mauer said he plans to remain a catcher when he does eventually return.

• DH Jim Thome has been sidelined the last two days with a mild oblique strain, but McWane said he is "very close to being ready." Gardenhire added, "Thome asked me to give him a couple more days here, a day or two, to see where we're at.... If not, I'll probably have to put him on the DL."

• OF Jason Repko has been hindered by a mild quad strain, but he is available off the bench if needed over the next few days.

• 2B Tsuyoshi Nishioka (broken fibula) will get a follow-up X-ray on Friday, and the team will then determine how to proceed from there. "He's progressed from the pool to dry land," McWane said. "He did some running on a treadmill yesterday. He did OK with that. He's done some swinging in the cages and he's getting really close to turning it up a little bit." McWane added that Nishioka is "in the strength phase of his program. He's getting stronger. He's getting a lot better. He's improved his flexibility. He's improved his strength in both in his legs and his upper body. Everything is getting stronger ... At some point he's going to have to go back to baseball activities and go play somewhere for a while."

Overheard

"I don't like that excuse ever, even if it's the first day of the season ... We've got to play better."
-- Outfielder Michael Cuddyer, when asked after Game 1 whether the team can still use "it's early" as an excuse for sub-par play.

"When it's 15-3 it's hard to have a lot of fire in the dugout. There's not going to be a lot of pom-poms when you're getting your ass kicked ... Guys were into it, the guys were trying, guys were yelling in the dugout, but still, you have to come up with some big hits to get everybody really fired up ... All I know is we're not winning. You go through streaks like this. We're in a frustrated state, because we're not getting it done."
-- Gardenhire, after being told of Cuddyer's suggestion earlier that the team wasn't showing enough fire.

On deck

The Twins travel to Kansas City Friday to kickoff a lengthy road trip. Right-hander Scott Baker (1-2, 3.24 ERA) will face left-hander Bruce Chen (3-1, 3.86) in the first game of a three-game series (7:10 p.m., 1500 ESPN).

Baker is coming off two very good starts against Tampa Bay and Baltimore in which he has allowed only one earned run on eight hits and two walks in 14 innings, striking out 15.

Despite major offensive ineptitude early in the season, the current crop of Twins hitters fares well in their careers against Chen -- .351/.383/.509 with two home runs in 60 plate appearances.

Coming up

• Saturday: @ Kansas City, 6:10 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (2-0, 3.00) vs. RHP Sean O'Sullivan (1-1, 4.20)
• Sunday: @ Kansas City, 1:10 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano (2-2, 5.12) vs. Luke Hochevar (2-3, 5.68).
• Monday: off day

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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