By JESSE TEMPLE
MILWAUKEE Clubbies can launder the Twins uniforms all they want, but the pungent stench of misery clinging to Jason Marquis these days is simply inescapable.
No matter where Marquis takes the mound, in the home whites or the road grays, the Minnesota pitcher has been nothing short of disastrous recently. His immense struggles continued Sunday when he failed to last beyond the second inning of Milwaukee's 16-4 drubbing of Minnesota at Miller Park.
Marquis has now lost four straight decisions, the last three coming without providing his team much of a chance. During a span of 10-23 innings pitched in those three games, Marquis has surrendered 18 earned runs.
"If I was able to feel what I was doing wrong, I'd feel like I'd be able to make the adjustment a little better," Marquis said. "I'm not going to stop working to get better. I'm just not doing my job, and I'm putting this team in a hole every time I step on the mound."
On Sunday, Marquis' outing began inauspiciously enough when he surrendered a leadoff home run on his fourth pitch to Corey Hart that sailed into the left field seats. Seven pitches later, Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy blasted a solo homer into the left field seats once again.
It was merely a precursor of things to come. In the second inning, Marquis allowed five singles and a double.
After recording just five outs, Marquis mercifully walked off the mound for good having surrendered a run-scoring single to Travis Ishikawa. In 1-23 innings of work, Marquis allowed eight runs on eight hits with no strikeouts, a walk and a hit batsman. He threw just 48 pitches, 26 for strikes.
Things became so bad for the Twins on Sunday that Drew Butera, one of the team's catchers, actually entered the game in the bottom of the eighth inning to pitch for the first time since high school. The Twins trailed 16-2 at the time.
Marquis (2-4) entered the day with the fifth-worst ERA in the American League among pitchers with at least 30 innings pitched at 6.68, and those numbers skyrocketed. He left with an ERA at 8.47, the worst in the AL.
The ineffectiveness of Marquis leads to an inevitable question: How long will the Twins keep sending him out to start every fifth day given the unfavorable results?
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire wasn't ready to make any proclamations following Sunday's game.
"The ball's up," Gardenhire said. "Sinker ball has got to be down. His ball is up. They roped some by people. They blooped a couple, but still the balls were up. Just one of those performances, it didn't work out. Just didn't get it done.
"We've got to see where we're at. We'll regroup. We have a day off tomorrow. We'll start looking at what we need to do come Tuesday."
If Gardenhire decides to make a change, it won't be the first time he's done so this season for the Twins (14-27), who are mired in last place in the AL Central.
On May 10, the Twins moved Francisco Liriano from the starting rotation to the bullpen. He was 0-5 with a 9.45 ERA in six starts. Rookie Liam Hendriks also recently was demoted to Triple-A Rochester. In four starts with the big league club, he went 0-2 with an ERA of 9.00.
And Minnesota added injury to insult this week, when Nick Blackburn went on the 15-day disabled list for a strained left quadriceps muscle. Blackburn is 1-4 with an 8.37 ERA.
Not surprisingly, the Twins have a team ERA of 5.43 -- the worst mark in the majors.
Marquis, in his 13th major league season, said he would continue to make adjustments during his off days, be it in bullpen sessions or from watching film.
"Ultimately, the hitter will tell you what's going on," he said. "They're hitting good pitches and bad pitches. I'm not saying I'm tipping. I don't think I am. Maybe I'm showing the ball early. Maybe the ball is flat. As a result of that, they're barreling more balls than normal."
Marquis, 33, has experienced a precipitous fall over the span of just three seasons. In 2009, he made the All-Star Game as a member of the Colorado Rockies and finished the year 15-13. Since that time, he is just 12-19.
And with the Twins' patience wearing thin, time may be running out on Marquis as a big league starting pitcher.
"I've been here before," Marquis said. "Obviously it's not a fun time. Hopefully I can figure it out sooner rather than later."
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