Found August 18, 2013 on Fox Sports North:
MINNEAPOLIS -- The record's been shattered into so many pieces, it's unclear who even appears on the cover. The Twins' descent continues. Among manifold problems, an almost complete lack of production with runners in scoring position stands out as a central reason. Even affable second baseman Brian Dozier is tired of talking about it. "We've been asked that a lot," said Dozier, one of the few Minnesota players who hangs around the clubhouse long after games these days. "It's not a different mentality or anything. You just have to bear down a little more." Manager Ron Gardenhire's frequently addressed it. "I don't know if it's trying too hard," Gardenhire said. "I think that probably comes into play. Guys read about it. Guys know about it. They're all working at it. The unfortunate part is the only way you can get better at it is for it to come up in game situations. You can't practice game situations during batting practice." They're numbers sitting in a vacuum, ready-made evidence for painful stretch after painful stretch. In their past 11 games, the Twins are 17-for-108 with runners in scoring position. In a 3-1 series loss to the Chicago White Sox that concluded Sunday afternoon with a 5-2 defeat, they went 9-for-46. They're batting .234 with a runner at second, third or both for the season, second-worst in the American League. And they've had plenty of opportunities; the Twins' 1,062 at-bats with runners in scoring position ranks third in the AL only behind Boston and Detroit. They have Major League Baseball's No. 3 doubles hitters in Joe Mauer. They get on base. But they stay on base. "The day someone says hitting's easy, I want to know the secret," said Dozier, who went 2-for-5 and scored a run Sunday. "It's definitely not easier (with runners in scoring position), but at the same time, you've got to get those big hits. "We've been struggling with that." The most recent glaring example came in the bottom of the fifth inning Sunday, when Minnesota (54-68) loaded the bases with one out. Josh Willingham drew a walk, Justin Morneau singled on a line drive to center, and Ryan Doumit followed with a base hit to left. With a chance to erase a three-run deficit, six- and seven-hole hitters Trevor Plouffe and Oswaldo Arcia both popped out in foul territory. "There you have it," Gardenhire said. "We missed opportunities again." A broken RISP, however, wasn't the only obstacle to Minnesota's chances to salvage a series split in front of 32,905. Pitcher Samuel Deduno suffered the worst of three straight rough outings: five innings pitched (tied for a season low), three hit batters (tied for a season high), four doubles and five earned runs. He hasn't pitched past the sixth since July 27, the last of six quality starts in a seven-game stretch. The breaking balls that fooled batters then have been spinning upward and offering a solid chance at contact. Deduno (7-7, 3.82 ERA) sent mixed messages when discussing his recent downturn. When asked if his arm was tiring, the 27-year-old right-hander responded, "a little." When asked if he still feels the same as he did in July, though, he said yes. "I think Sammy was a little erratic today," Gardenhire said. "I don't know. If he says he feels fine, he's not tired. It's just one of those erratic days." After permitting a 3-1 Twins series win in Chicago last weekend, the White Sox (49-74) closed out the return favor with a win from Hector Santiago. The third-year left-hander gave up nine hits and struck out just one but benefitted from Minnesota's continued lack of production with prime scoring opportunities. All told, the Twins left 12 men on base. They'll turn around and play a 1:10 p.m. makeup game Monday at Target Field against the New York Mets. Rookie right-hander Kyle Gibson is scheduled to face Dillon Gee in a tilt originally scheduled for April 14. Minnesota has lost five of its last seven home games. "It's terrible, to be honest with you," Dozier said in reference to that final factoid. "We don't go out there to lose, by any means." Follow Phil Ervin on Twitter
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