The hardest thing for Twins fans to take about the team's recent woes may not be all the losing, though the team did drop its twelfth out of sixteen games to the Rangers. The manner of the losses, however, is pretty galling; it seems like Minnesota has spent the entirety of August behind 6-1, or 7-3, or 9-1. Every once in awhile, the sun breaks through the clouds and the team wins 11-0, but otherwise August has been a steady parade of relief pitchers and crooked numbers on the scoreboard.
We will not speak much of Francisco Liriano in the game recap, because the title of this story and his line (2 IP, 7 H, 7ER, 2 BB, HBP) tell you all you need to know. You can already picture his start - wild as hell, falling off the mound, throwing sliders that nearly ended up in dugouts, while a steady diet of Ranger hitters waited for the inevitable fastball down the center of the plate before pounding the ball.
Justin Morneau left the game with "dizziness," according to the team's broadcasters, and one could be forgiven for chalking this up to battle fatigue.
The Twins fell behind 7-2 after two innings, and though they later strung together a few hits and runs to get within 7-5, they could come no closer. Despite the much-improved Texas pitching staff, mid-summer games in Arlington always seem to follow the same script: it's hotter than the inside of a pottery kiln at game time, both starters get bombed early, and the game turns into the Dallas Invitational Batting Practice and Relief Pitching Competition. Rangers starter Tommy Hunter got the win, tossing 5.2 innings but throwing enormous numbers of pitches to get through that short stint, walking three and working from behind against seemingly every hitter.
On the bright side, of course, there is Joe Mauer. There will always be a ray of sunshine on Mauer's spot in the box score, it seems. Mauer homered in the first, giving the Twins a short, hopeful 1-0 lead. He doubled and scored in the sixth, touching off the Minnesota rally that moved them within two. He singled and - improbably - stole second base in the seventh, but died there. Those eight bases he gained were nearly as many as his teammates put together, who managed three singles, a double, and six walks.
Ultimately, though, there's too much for Mauer and his teammates to fight against every night. No team can win, starting from six or seven runs behind every night. And with the team's starting pitchers struggling to get all the way to the fourth inning, the team is headed nowhere but down.
UPDATE: Liriano will head to the disabled list with a "tired arm," which I suppose is code for any number of things, including "inability to control emotions" and 'inability of manager to keep patience with failures for longer than two innings at a time."