Twins' pitchers trying to pick up slumping team

Hughes turns in solid start, but has narrow margin for error

April 14th, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS -- With an offense teetering on an historic worst start to the season, the margin for error for the Twins' pitchers has become paper thin.

Phil Hughes had hoped his start in Wednesday's 3-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox would be the pick-me-up needed for the team' hitters. He kept Chicago off the board for five innings and even got out of a jam in the fifth with runners on second and third with no outs.

Then an RBI double-play groundout by Jose Abreu in the sixth opened the scoring, and Hughes' leeway was gone.

"You can't think that way," Hughes said of the need to be perfect. "You just have to go out there and pitch, and not think about the circumstances of everything else that's going on. Just try and focus on, it's the cliché one pitch at a time, but it's really all you can do in that situation. You can't win eight games in one inning. You just try and focus on the situation at hand and everything else will just kind of take care of itself."

Hughes allowed three runs on seven hits in 6 1/3 innings, but lost his second straight decision to open the season. He struck out seven batters, but Jerry Sands' two-run homer in the seventh ended his night.

"To be honest, three runs seems like a big mountain right now, just because of the fact we're having trouble putting tallies on the board," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "We had a couple opportunities. Once again, a few opportunities that we did have with men in scoring position, we couldn't get that hit."

Minnesota went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, falling to a Major League-worst 5-for-61 in such situations this season. The result has been starting pitching without much wiggle room.

Including Hughes' start Wednesday, Twins starters have allowed 16 runs in 41 2/3 innings for a 3.46 ERA. Hughes has lost both starts while giving up six runs in 12 1/3 innings.

"Right now, your opportunity to come back doesn't seem tremendously large," Molitor said. "So I'm sure the pitchers are feeling like they have a small margin for error. The main thing you have to try and keep the unit cohesive and not getting any division; the pitchers getting frustrated with the hitters, because those things always turn around at some point where the hitters will pick up the pitchers just like right now we're trying to pick up the hitters."

Hughes wasn't pointing any fingers. But the constant reminder of the offensive issues isn't far from anyone's mind as Minnesota presses through an 0-8 start.

"Like we've said in here, we just can't press," Hughes said. "It becomes the natural thing when things are going this way to press and feel like the previous night is weighing on you the next day, which we can't do. It's difficult. It's the story and that's what's happening. Everybody knows about it and is reading about it. We come in and things are being said, and we've got to find a way to block that out and treat tomorrow like it's the first game of the season and not worry about this hole we've dug ourselves."