ATLANTA – The Minnesota Twins are mired in a terrible slump.
They won't have Vance Worley to blame anymore.
The Twins dropped their eighth in a row, losing to the Atlanta Braves 8-3 on Wednesday, and immediately demoted Worley to the minors after another dismal outing.
The right-hander gave up three homers, including Evan Gattis' grand slam, and left after just 3 2-3 innings. Worley's record dropped to 1-5 and his ERA climbed to 7.21.
"The ball was coming out of his hand pretty good," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "But ultimately, he misfires too much over the plate and you see the ball flying. And that's what happened today. When he gets the ball up, they whack it pretty good."
Ramiro Pena and B.J. Upton also homered for the Braves before Gattis finished off Worley, swinging away on a 3-0 pitch with the bases loaded in the fourth. The opposite-field drive landed just inside the right-field pole for the rookie's 10th homer of an improbable debut season.
"I didn't think he'd have the green light, personally," Worley said. "But he's a good hitter. That's a good-hitting ball club."
The Twins haven't been good at much of anything lately. The offense has produced only 22 runs during the losing streak, an average of less than three per game. But the starting pitching has been the big problem all season, lasting fewer innings per outing than every rotation except Houston's.
In Atlanta, the Twins' three starters combined to give up 15 runs in 9 2-3 innings.
"We need performances," Gardenhire said. "We needed (Worley) to step up. It didn't work out. He needs to go down and get going."
Gattis, on the other hand, is on quite a roll.
So are the first-place Braves, who completed their second straight series sweep with their sixth victory in a row.
"I love this team," Gattis said. "We all contribute, we've all got roles, we've all got things we do to help this team. It's a good feeling right now in the clubhouse. We're playing good baseball."
The Braves made things easy for starter Paul Maholm (6-4), who held the Twins to an unearned run in 7 1-3 innings.
With the Braves already leading 4-0, Gattis struck again with his first career grand slam — less than 24 hours after his two-out, pinch-homer in the ninth allowed the Braves to pull out a 5-4 win over the Twins in extra innings.
"It's legend," Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
As Gattis rounded the bases, the theme from "The Natural" played over the speakers at Turner Field.
Gattis made the team as a non-roster player in spring training after quitting baseball during college, working a variety of odd jobs, and dealing with bouts of depression that had him contemplating suicide. He still has a picture of his ID card from working as a janitor on his Twitter page.
He returned to baseball after nearly four years away, having completed what he calls a spiritual journey. He worked his way up from the low minors, earned a roster spot this spring, and got extensive playing time in April while the Braves battled injuries, claiming the NL rookie of the month honors.
Now, with all the regulars back in the lineup, he's making the most of his more limited chances in May.
There was one stumble on the day, however.
After Cory Rasmus, making his major league debut, got his first strikeout, Gattis flipped the ball to a little girl in the stands.
"We've got to teach him a little more court awareness," Gonzalez quipped.
For Worley, the problems run much deeper.
"I went out there and I left the ball up just a little bit," said Worley, who was sent to Triple-A Rochester. "They haven't seen what I'm capable of doing ever since I got here. It's been a battle and I've just got to figure it out. This whole spring up to this point, I haven't been consistent whatsoever."
Before leaving, Worley's horrendous problems in the first continued when he allowed two hits and a walk, including Jason Heyward's run-scoring single. In 10 starts, the right-hander has allowed 17 runs and 24 hits in the opening inning.
It would have been worse if Pena had not been thrown out at the plate in the first attempting to score on a flyout to left fielder Josh Willingham.
Atlanta made it 3-0 in the third. Pena hit his second homer of the season, barely clearing the wall in right. After Worley plunked a pair of hitters, Chris Johnson came through with a two-out single to bring in another run.
The Braves blew it open in the fourth. Upton, hitting just .153 coming in, led off with a homer into the seats in left-center. After Maholm's flyout, Jordan Schafer singled, Heyward singled, Freddie Freeman walked and Gattis went deep.
Minnesota's only run off Maholm came after Johnson's error at third base set up Justin Morneau's RBI single in the sixth.
Aaron Hicks and pinch-hitter Oswaldo Arcia homered in the ninth off Rasmus.
NOTES: The Twins placed 3B Trevor Plouffe on the seven-day DL with a concussion. He took a blow to the head in the 10th inning of Tuesday night's game while breaking up an attempted double play. ... Minnesota called up former independent league star Chris Colabello, who was batting .358 at Triple-A Rochester and leading the International League with 12 homers and a .659 slugging percentage. Colabello got the news after midnight on a bus ride from Allentown back to Rochester, just made an early morning flight to Atlanta and was in the lineup for the 12:10 p.m. start, playing right field and batting sixth. He went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts in his major league debut at age 30. ... The Braves already have swept five series this season. ... Rasmus is the younger brother of Toronto OF Colby Rasmus.
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