Ballparks other than Target Field haven’t been friendly locales for the Twins of late, and their away woes persisted in a 5-4 defeat Friday night at Texas.
If there’s one common thread among Minnesota’s four straight losses on its current six-game road swing, it’s a lack of viable starting pitching. Kevin Correia became the latest Twins rotation man to succumb to an opponent’s lineup, yielding an early blast and an advantage the struggling Rangers clung to in spite of a furious late Twins rally.
The bats haven’t been there at times as Minnesota (36-42) has lost nine road contests in a row. But lately, it’s been the Twins’ starting hurlers that have carved out the biggest holes.
"It happens," manager Ron Gardenhire said after his team nearly erased a 5-0 deficit in the ninth. "As I told the guys afterward, if they just keep playing like that — good things are gonna happen if they keep getting after the game like that."
Kyle Gibson started the slide with a two-inning, seven-earned-run outing Tuesday against the Angels. A day later, 30-year-old rookie Yohan Pino lasted just three innings and gave up five earned runs in his second-ever start. Ricky Nolasco lasted longer Wednesday but gave up 11 hits and six earned runs in six innings of work.
Correia’s line Friday wasn’t quite as gruesome — six innings, six hits, four earned runs. But he hung up a fastball in the first inning that Adrian Beltre lined into the center-field bullpen for a two-run home run in the bottom of the first. RBI doubles by Luis Sardinas and Shin-Soo Choo made it 4-0 in the fifth.
That wound up being enough for the injury-rocked Rangers (36-43) to snap an eight-game losing streak. In front of 38,111 spectators in Arlington, Texas nearly recorded its 14th shutout of the season before Minnesota made things interesting in the final frame.
The Rangers stayed at fourth in the American League West Division, while Minnesota remains in the same spot in the Central.
Road pitching has been problematic for Minnesota all season long. Its staff boasts an ERA away from home of 4.44, fifth-worst in the majors.
In the past four contests, the starters have a combined 11.65 ERA.
Correia, in particular, has struggled. He’s gone five or more innings in his past eight starts but required 90 or more pitches to do so.
Friday night, he threw 98.
"Kevin didn’t pitch bad," Gardenhire said. "He just had a couple two-run innings."
Despite another slow start, the Twins nearly rallied to tie things up in the top of the ninth Friday.
Oswaldo Arcia hit an RBI single to shallow center, Eduardo Escobar drove in a run on an error, and Jorge Polanco brought home two runs with his first Major League hit, a triple down the right-field line, to make it 5-4. But Brian Dozier struck out swinging, and Kurt Suzuki grounded out to third to end the threat against closer Joakim Soria.
"We had our chance," Gardenhire said.
Escobar also struck out with the bases loaded in the fourth. It was second-year Rangers starter Nick Tepesch’s lone hiccup; he matched his longest-ever outing with a 7 1/3-inning, five-strikeout performance.
"That was awesome," said Rangers catcher Chris Gimenez. "He gave us a chance all along. For us to come into the ninth with a five-run lead — obviously, we needed it."
The Twins have two more chances to pick up a road victory at Arlington before returning home for a three-game series against the Royals starting Monday. Phil Hughes is slated to start against Texas’ Yu Darvish at 3:05 p.m. Saturday.