Twins, Hendriks unable to hold off Pirates

Twins, Hendriks unable to hold off Pirates

Twins, Hendriks unable to hold off Pirates
PITTSBURGH -- There's little doubt that Liam Hendriks has conquered the Minor Leagues.

After all, the right-hander was the club's Minor League Pitcher of the Year last season and has a career 2.69 ERA in the Minors, including a 1.94 ERA at Triple-A Rochester in seven starts this year after scuffling to start the season with the Twins.

Now it's about translating that success to the Majors. So far, it's been a rough go, and that was again the case Thursday in a 9-1 loss to the Pirates at PNC Park.

The Australia native allowed six runs (three earned) on eight hits over five-plus innings to fall to 0-4 with a 7.39 ERA in six starts this year. He's now winless in 10 career starts with a 6.84 ERA dating back to last season.

  • 142 wins
  • 110 wins

He said the key is to get off to better starts, as he has a career 7.90 ERA in the first three innings of his outings.

"Down in Rochester, it was kind of like, 'I know I've got these guys' but up here, I'm realizing that in the third or fourth inning," said Hendriks, who rejoined the rotation on Saturday. "So as soon as I can start the game off like that I'll be fine. It's just that I need to get into that mindset early."

Hendriks has an interesting take on how he can get into that mindset. He said his mentality changed after giving up a three-run double to Andrew McCutchen in the second inning, and Hendriks was able to settle down for a few innings.

"I need to get angry at myself," Hendriks said. "I used that when I was playing football in Australia. It's one of those things where as soon as I got angry at myself for doing something, I got locked in. So I got to start getting angry at myself early. Like I did that after McCutchen got that three-run double and I started doing better after that."

The Pirates got out to an early lead against Hendriks, scoring in the first inning on an RBI single from Garrett Jones after McCutchen tripled with two outs.

Brian Dozier didn't help matters in the second, when he made a costly error at shortstop on a grounder hit by Neil Walker to load the bases with two outs. McCutchen quickly made the Twins pay with a three-run double to bring home three unearned runs charged to Hendriks.

"I know we missed a ball behind him, but there were rockets flying everywhere," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "The ball was being hit really hard. You add on to it an error, and it just puts more pressure on you. You really have no chance in that ballgame after a certain amount of runs get scored because the guy on the other side is dominating you."

The Twins got on the board against McDonald in the fourth, when Trevor Plouffe doubled and scored on a single from Ryan Doumit.

Pittsburgh later used a barrage of homers to put the game out of reach. Rod Barajas was the first to go deep with a two-run blast in the sixth that knocked Hendriks out of the game.

Reliever Jeff Manship served up two homers in the seventh, as Jones crushed a two-run shot before Pedro Alvarez hit a solo homer that nearly reached the Allegheny River beyond right field.

McDonald, meanwhile, dominated the Twins in the first complete game of his career. The right-hander allowed just one run on six hits to pick up his sixth win.

"Just from last year to this year, it's been like night and day how he's learned to harness his stuff, and trust his stuff, recognizing that he's got great stuff," Jones said of McDonald. "He's learned how to pitch -- it's impressive to watch, whether on the bench or on defense, how he's going after hitters, being aggressive and confident."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for 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.