Pitchers unable to handle Tigers in loss

Pitchers unable to handle Tigers in loss

Pitchers unable to handle Tigers in loss
MINNEAPOLIS -- It's fair to say that Anthony Swarzak has fared well as a reliever this season.

The right-hander has a 3.06 ERA in 17 2/3 innings out of the bullpen, but it's been a different story as a starter this season.

Swarzak was thrown into a spot start against the Tigers on Friday, and he struggled yet again in a 10-6 loss at Target Field.

Swarzak, making his fourth start of the season with right-hander Nick Blackburn on the disabled list, allowed six runs on nine hits and a walk over 3 2/3 innings to see his ERA climb to 8.34 in 18 1/3 innings as a starter.

But he wasn't helped by the fact that he battled flu-like symptoms during the game and immediately left the stadium after being removed from the game.

"He's actually done pretty good [as a reliever] but with where we're at, we needed a pitcher and took our shot, but the flu didn't help him," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He won't make any excuses but I actually sent him home. I told him to go home and get some rest."

But even with the flu-like symptoms, Swarzak had enough troubles that the Twins will decide whether he'll stay in the rotation or if they'll have to make another change to a rotation that has been their weak link all season.

"We'll talk this thing over tomorrow," Gardenhire said. "A lot of things happened in this game, so we'll talk it over and see where we go next with our pitching."

The Twins took an early lead against left-hander Drew Smyly, scoring two runs in the first inning on a two-out double by Brian Dozier with the bases loaded.

But the Tigers struck back with four runs in the second, as Brennan Boesch connected on an RBI double before Alex Avila laced a two-run double. Quintin Berry added an RBI single, but was thrown out trying to advance to second to end the inning.

"Getting down 2-0, coming back like that, to me, that was the difference in the game," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "The key was the second inning for us. We get a four spot after they get two. If they hold us that next inning, who knows, maybe it's a whole different game."

Detroit tacked on two more runs in the fourth, as Boesch scored on another double from Avila, who scored on a single from Ryan Raburn.

The Twins came back with a run in the bottom of the fourth on a sacrifice fly from Jamey Carroll to score Trevor Plouffe, who doubled earlier in the frame.

And after reliever Francisco Liriano gave up an RBI double to Prince Fielder in the top of the fifth, Minnesota scored twice in the sixth with the help of two errors from reliever Brayan Villareal to make it interesting.

But the Tigers blew the game open with three runs against Liriano in the seventh. Fielder opened the scoring with a bloop single after Miguel Cabrera was intentionally walked with a runner at second. Former Twins outfielder Delmon Young added an RBI double before Boesch added a run-scoring single on a bloop that was lost in the lights by Dozier.

Reliever Jeff Gray was able to get through the inning without any further damage, but Liriano ended up surrendering four runs on five hits and two walks over 2 2/3 innings.

"Frankie actually threw the ball OK," Gardenhire said. "Left a couple pitches up to Fielder. A couple of sliders up and the game kind of got away from us there."

The Twins scored in the seventh on an RBI groundout from Morneau after Mauer singled and Josh Willingham doubled, but it wasn't enough, as the Twins lost for the fourth time over their last five games.

It's been a frustrating stretch for the Twins, as they've averaged nearly seven runs per game over their last nine games, but are 5-4 over that span.

"It's all about getting timely hits and as far as the offense is concerned, we've been getting more of those lately," Carroll said. "Obviously, it's showing, and hopefully we can continue it because it's definitely a key part of this game."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.