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Twins 0-for-the-season against Yankees

McClatchy Newspapers

MINNEAPOLIS — If the Twins spent the season’s first half believing they were good enough to play with baseball’s elite come October, by Thursday afternoon, they weren’t kidding themselves.

Not after losing, 6-4, to the Yankees. Not after getting swept at the Metrodome without ever holding a lead for three games.

Not after going 0-7 for the season against the Yankees, and falling to 6-19 against the AL East.

With the White Sox in town on Friday night for the final series before the All-Star break, the Twins got a painful reminder of what they are: A work in progress.

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"Anytime you play the Yankees, it’s a test, and we’re just not there yet," catcher Mike Redmond said. "And I think everybody on this team realizes that we’ve still got a lot of work to do. If we want to compete with the best teams in this league, we’ve gotta keep working."

Granted, four of the losses to the Yankees were by one run, and two were by two runs. But if the mid-May series in New York was about how close the Twins seemed, the past three days exposed how far away they really are.

Francisco Liriano (4-9) gave the Twins another wobbly start, allowing six runs (three earned) on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings. Throw in Scott Baker and Anthony Swarzak’s efforts, and their starters combined to post a 8.76 ERA in the series.

"I think I get too excited to face (the Yankees)," Liriano said. "It’s a good team. You don’t want to make a mistake. You want to go out there and make good pitches."

Second baseman Matt Tolbert’s second-inning error on Robinson Cano’s bouncer led to three unearned runs off Liriano. But in many ways, Liriano earned those runs, walking the first batter, hitting the next and then walking the .185 hitting Cody Ransom with the bases loaded.

Perhaps equally disturbing, the Twins managed just 19 hits for the series. They could write off the first two losses to the difficulties of facing C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett.

But with Chien-Ming Wang injured, the Yankees turned Thursday into a bullpen day, starting reliever Alfredo Aceves, and still held the Twins to six hits.

Justin Morneau went 0-for-10 in the series.

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Joe Mauer went 5-for-14 with two more hits Thursday to leave his AL leading average at .389. But Mauer’s biggest chance came in the fourth inning, after David Robertson had issued two bases-loaded walks to shrink New York’s lead to 5-4.

Mauer grounded to second base, ending the inning. One more hit — that same old refrain. The Twins were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and batted an abysmal .113 (6-for-53) in those situations over the seven losses to the Yankees.

"Mental block? I’m not buying that," Manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They’ve just got some good players over there and they got it done."

New York is 36-17 since May 13, but here comes Chicago, riding a 16-7 stretch.

"The White Sox are playing very good baseball," Gardenhire said. "So if we go out and play like we did against the Yankees, we’ll probably get our butts kicked here at home again, and that’s not too much fun."

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