Adding insult to injury, Twins’ slump continues

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire argues with home plate umpire Chris Segal in the third inning of Minnesota's 9-4 loss to Cleveland on Thursday.

David Richard/David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Those in Twinsdom are far too familiar with things sliding downhill in a hurry.

The organization that’s dropped 96 or more games each of the past three seasons is slipping once again, this time thanks to injuries and malperformance that have manager Ron Gardenhire growing noticeably agitated and assistant/acting general manager Rob Antony juggling the roster every few hours.

Monday, at the beginning of the current seven-game road swing, Minnesota was 15-15 and riding a three-game win streak that matched its longest of the season. Three days later, the Twins dropped their third straight, 9-4, and fell three games below .500 — which conversely equals their worst winning percentage so far this spring.

Such is the volatility of a long, arduous Major League Baseball schedule. It’s not time to panic, Gardenhire said, but it is time for change.

Which is why shortstop Pedro Florimon and catcher/outfielder Chris Hermann — with 12 combined hits between them — were sent down to Triple-A following Thursday’s defeat.

"There are no questions to it," Gardenhire told reporters after his team’s third straight loss. "That’s a pretty solid statement by me and the general manager and the assistant general manager."

Indians 9, Twins 4

The only statement the Twins (15-18) made Thursday, however, is that they’re unable to survive a slew of injuries combined with a flat pitching start even when a comeback opportunity presents itself. Kevin Correia (1-4) lasted just 4 1/3 innings and yielded four earned runs on eight hits, including a pair of home runs by Asdrubal Cabrera and Michael Brantley.

Brantley’s two-run, line-drive shot to right field made it 4-0 in the fifth. The Twins climbed within two in the sixth and one in the seventh but could get no closer.

Kurt Suzuki popped out with a pair of runners on base to end the top of the sixth. Trevor Plouffe lined out to right with a runner at third and Minnesota down 5-4 to bring on the seventh-inning stretch.

"We got ourselves back into the ballgame," Gardenhire said, "then we end up going through our bullpen pretty good."

Michael Tonkin, Caleb Thielbar Anthony Swarzak, Brian Duensing and late Wednesday call-up Matt Guerrier combined to allow four earned runs on seven hits during the final 3 2/3 innings. Brantley caused the most damage, going three-for-five with three RBI and finishing a triple short of the cycle.

Indians starter Justin Masterson (2-1) lived up to his last name until the sixth. He struck out six batters and allowed one hit on just 50 pitches before Chris Colabello’s two-run single cut Cleveland’s lead in half.

But Minnesota’s depleted lineup couldn’t maintain momentum from there. First baseman Joe Mauer missed a third straight game with back spasms, outfielders Josh Willingham (left-wrist hairline fracture) and Oswaldo Arcia (strained right wrist) remain on the 15-day DL, and pitcher Mike Pelfrey is out with a left groin strain.

The Twins are expected to announce corresponding moves for Florimon and Herrmann, including Aaron Hicks (coming off the 7-day DL), Friday. Following a 3-1 series loss to Cleveland in which it was outscored 18-7, Minnesota heads to Central Division-leading Detroit for a three-game affair before returning to Target Field on Tuesday against Boston.

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