Twins falter against Lowe

Published 8:47 am Wednesday, May 16, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS — Derek Lowe didn’t fool the Minnesota Twins. His trusty sinker was so good he didn’t have to.

Lowe pitched his first shutout in nearly seven years, throwing a six-hitter Tuesday and leading the Cleveland Indians past the Twins 5-0.

The 38-year-old Lowe (6-1) became the first pitcher since Scott Erickson for Baltimore in 2002 to throw a shutout without a strikeout. Lowe induced four double-play grounders and used his sinker roughly 120 times. He said he threw only about seven or eight breaking balls.

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“Until you see a major adjustment — not just one hitter — your eyes and your ears will tell you when you need to make a change,” Lowe said.

Lowe threw a season-high 127 pitches for his 10th career complete game, and first since Aug. 26, 2008, for the Los Angeles Dodgers. This was his fourth big league shutout, the previous one coming on Aug. 31, 2005, for the Dodgers at San Diego.

The only time the Twins truly came close to scoring was in the seventh when they loaded the bases with two outs on two singles and a walk. But Alexi Casilla swung at the first pitch for a lazy fly to right field.

This was Lowe’s longest outing in eight starts this season. He’s allowed three runs or less with six innings or more in seven of them.

“Believe it or not, the guys in the dugout are still hooting and hollering, and we believed we were going to score runs in that last inning,” manager Ron Gardenhire said.

But the clubhouse was quiet again afterward. Joe Mauer’s average dropped to .270. He’s 8 for 46 this month.

“I’m just in a little funk right now,” he said, “and trying to get out of it.”

Mauer has started 35 of 36 games this season.

“I don’t like to sit on the bench. I did enough of that last year. I’m just trying to stay on the field and get out there as much as I can,” he said.

Shin-Soo Choo scored after a leadoff double in the third inning and then hit the first of three Cleveland home runs in the fifth against Jason Marquis (2-3). Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana also homered to break the game open.

The first-place Indians rebounded from five losses in their previous six games with a two-game sweep at Target Field of the majors-worst Twins, who entered the game with the most groundballs hit in the league, an average of more than 14 per game.

Starting pitching has been just as much of a problem, and Marquis was the latest to falter. Manager Ron Gardenhire spoke before the game of the importance of a quality performance from Marquis, but he gave up nine hits, five runs and two walks in five innings while striking out only two.

“It’s definitely frustrating and a little confusing, but I’ve been there before and gotten out of it. I’ll go back to the drawing board and figure it out,” Marquis said.

The last time the Twins surrendered three homers in one inning was Sept. 25, 2010, when Carl Pavano did it at Detroit.

Casey Kotchman punched an RBI single down the lane past a shifted-over third baseman Jamey Carroll to drive in Santana after a double to start the second. Marquis escaped a leadoff triple by Michael Brantley in the fourth, but the ball was flying all over the place in the fifth.

Choo’s drive reached the left-field seats. Two batters later, Cabrera hit an 0-1 sinker to the upper deck in right-center. Then Santana turned on a changeup that sailed just inside the pole down the right-field line.

“I’m not throwing the ball the way I want. It’s getting embarrassing,” Marquis said, acknowledging he has to try a different approach.

Working faster is Gardenhire’s suggestion. Marquis needed 95 pitches, and he’s a veteran who’s used to taking his time between deliveries.

“The pace of the game still has to pick up. It’s too slow,” Garde