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Offense struggles against another tough starter

Marquis strong vs. Mariners but Twins overmatched by Felix

SEATTLE -- It's been a tough past couple of days for the Twins offense, and facing Felix Hernandez on Saturday night did not help one bit.

Three days after being held hitless against Angels righty Jered Weaver, Minnesota was stifled by another American League West ace. With Hernandez's "King's Court" supporting him from the left-field corner of Safeco Field, Hernandez held the Twins to just one hit in a 7-0 win on a cool but clear night in Seattle.

It was not an evening to remember for a Minnesota offense that has been shut out in three of its past four games. The only glimpse of production at the plate came from Denard Span's single in the fourth. Other than that, Hernandez was unhittable.

"He was just nasty," said catcher Joe Mauer, who came in hitting .500 against Hernandez but finished 0-for-4. "He was hitting his spots and had a lot of movement on his pitches."

Hernandez retired the first nine batters he faced before giving up the Span hit and two walks in the fourth. But that was the only time the Twins had a runner past first base.

After that hiccup, Hernandez got some run support and continued dealing. He ended up retiring 13 straight batters after the walks and struck out nine in total. The 2010 Cy Young winner has given up two runs in his past four starts and improved to 3-1.

"That's just vintage Felix, if you ask me," Mariners skipper Eric Wedge said of Saturday's performance. "The way he moved his fastball around, he was dropping his breaking ball and slider, and using that changeup effectively."

For a Twins team that has at times shown promise on offense this season, the hits and runs have been lacking big time in the past week. Acting manager Scott Ullger -- Ron Gardenhire is attending his daughter's graduation this weekend -- said that it's a matter of individual players getting back on track again.

"Hitting is contagious and lack of hitting is contagious," said Ullger, normally the bench coach. "Someone needs to get hot and it'll be contagious hitting-wise. You go through spells like this during the course of the season and obviously, we've been facing some pretty good pitching, so you got to give pitching a little credit as well."

Despite the Hernandez domination, Minnesota starter Jason Marquis was keeping up and had allowed just two hits through five innings until the Mariners employed a little small ball in a decisive sixth frame. With runners at second and third and two outs, Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager ripped a 2-0 pitch up the middle to give Seattle a 2-0 lead.

The Twins bullpen gave up five more runs in the seventh, but the way Hernandez was going, it wasn't even needed.

Even though Marquis picked up his first loss of the year, he pitched a second straight quality start and said he was pleased with his six innings of four-hit ball and two earned runs. He commended his defense -- the Twins converted double plays in the second, third and fourth innings -- but was disappointed with his six walks and a few bad pitches.

"A couple got away from me," the right-hander said. "I guess I didn't make pitches when I needed to."

But on this night, Marquis couldn't have done much more to help his team's chances. Hernandez was simply too much, and the Twins offense again struggled. Over the past four games, Minnesota hitters are 9-for-116 and the team has lost 10 of its past 12 games.

"We've faced some guys that put together some good starts," Mauer said. "You just got to keep battling. That's baseball."

Taylor Soper is a contributor to
Read More: Minnesota Twins, Joe Mauer, Denard Span, Jason Marquis