Published June 21, 2012
PITTSBURGH – Liam Hendriks' performances are making his manager angry. The rookie right-hander hopes they are having the same effect on himself.
Hendriks was tagged for six runs and eight hits in five-plus innings and the Minnesota Twins lost for the sixth time in their past eight games, 9-1 to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday night.
"I just need to get angry," said Hendriks, a 23-year-old native of Australia. "When I was playing football back in Australia, it was one of the things where I wouldn't do well until I got angry at myself for doing something wrong and then I would get locked in. I need to get angry from the get-go instead of after I've already given up two or three runs."
The Pirates scored one in the first and three in the second against Hendriks (0-4), who remained winless in 10 career outings. He retired nine of the 10 batters he faced in the third through fifth innings but was pulled after Rod Barajas homered two batters into the sixth.
"As the story goes, if you don't pitch, you get whacked," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
"I know we didn't make a play behind him there but there were rockets flying everywhere," Gardenhire added.
James McDonald pitched his first career complete game and Barajas, Garrett Jones and Pedro Alvarez homered for the Pirates, who have won four of five.
McDonald (6-3) continued his breakthrough season by allowing one run, six hits and no walks with five strikeouts, lowering his ERA to 2.19. He has allowed one run or fewer in nine of his 14 starts this season.
"He was lights out today," Alvarez said. "He's been pretty good all year, but when his breaking pitch is working the way it was today for strikes and for chase, and he's locating his fastball the way he was, he's one of the best out there. And today's performance is as good a performance as you'll have from any pitcher."
McDonald was 18-20 in 95 career starts heading into this season but is now among the NL leaders in ERA. He credited the addition of two veterans — pitcher A.J. Burnett and catcher Barajas — to the Pittsburgh clubhouse this season for helping him finally harness his long-tantalizing potential.
It was after his most recent start — one in which he allowed one run but lasted only six innings — that Barajas sat him down.
"He told me I need to be that guy who wants seven to nine innings every night out," McDonald said. "Tonight after the seventh, that just went through my brain the whole time, and I really wanted that.
"I could see he really wanted me to finish the game, all my teammates wanted me to finish the game — and I finally believed in myself I could finish the game."
It was the Pirates' first complete game this season.
Jones had an RBI single in the first inning and a two-run homer that made it 8-1 in the seventh. Alvarez added a shot that traveled an estimated 435 feet to right-center two batters later.
Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen came up a home run short of the cycle, scoring two runs and driving in three.
The surging Pirates have won seven of their past eight series and four consecutive series at home. They moved within two games of first-place Cincinnati in the NL Central.
Justin Morneau had two hits for the Twins.
With two outs in the first, McCutchen tripled to right-center just past the diving Ben Revere. He scored when Jones followed with an infield single.
"I feel prepared; I'm throwing well in warmups then I get out to the game and something changes," Hendriks said. "I give up a couple of runs before I get in that grove and get my aggressiveness going."
An inning later, McCutchen came up with the bases loaded and two outs and hit a similar hard, deep liner. This time, he pulled it to left for a three-run double.
Barajas snapped an 0-for-13 slump with his seventh homer that followed Alvarez's leadoff single in the sixth.
That prompted Gardenhire to lift Hendriks(0-4), who did not walk a batter and had three strikeouts.
Jones, a former Twin, homered for the first time since June 3 after McCutchen singled to lead off the seventh. Alvarez's homer was his fifth in his past five games and team-high 13th this season.
Minnesota got its run in the fourth when Ryan Doumit's two-out single scored Trevor Plouffe.
Notes: LHP Brian Duensing will start for the Twins on Saturday in Cincinnati. It will be his first start of the season after 30 relief appearances. He has 50 starts in his four-year career. ... Minnesota C Joe Mauer (bruised right quad) was not in the lineup for the third straight game, although Gardenhire said he was available to pinch-hit. ... Morneau stole second base in the sixth, his first since 2007. ... Pittsburgh hosts Detroit to conclude its interleague play this weekend. The Tigers took two of three from the Pirates in Detroit last month. ... The Twins travel to Cincinnati, where RHP Nick Blackburn (3-4, 7.48) faces the Reds' Homer Bailey (5-4, 4.03) in the opener Friday.