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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Coming out of spring training, hitting was supposed to be one the Minnesota Twins’ strengths.
Now it’s mid-June, and the Twins are still struggling to get on base and score runs.
Doug Fister held Minnesota hitless until the sixth inning and Torii Hunter connected for his 300th career home run, leading the Detroit Tigers over the Twins 5-2 Sunday.
Fister (6-4) didn’t allow a baserunner until walking Ryan Doumit with two outs in the fourth inning, then lost his no-hit bid when Brian Dozier led off the sixth with a homer.
It was the third time in the last four games that Minnesota managed just three hits in a game.
“It’s just a matter of guys getting going,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “You look at the guys in the middle and we count on them to drive them in but you have to have people get on base. If you look at our batting averages up and down, it’s not where we need to be.”
The only starter hitting better than .300 is Joe Mauer. As a team, the Twins are hitting just .242, and only .250 with runners in scoring position.
“It seems like a week goes by and we’re hitting the cover off the ball, then we hit a little slump as a team,” Dozier said. “I think it’s all about big hits, two out hits. We’ve been leaving a lot of guys on base.”
Fister allowed two runs and two hits — both to Dozier — in 7 2-3 innings. He struck out seven, walked two and won for the first time in his last six starts.
Hunter gave Fister an early lead with a two-run homer in the first, his 300th and one of two two-run shots that Twins starter P.J. Walters (2-2) allowed.
“Two-run homer in the first put us in the hole and it didn’t get much better from there,” Walters said.
Austin Jackson hit another two-run homer off the right-hander in the fourth to make it 4-0.
Walters gave up four runs on nine hits and three walks in 5 1-3 innings.
“I’d make a good pitch, then back it up with two bad ones. It was just all day long. Not locating the ball,” he said.
Hunter hit 192 of his 300 home runs with the Twins. His first career homer came on April 15, 1999, in old Tigers Stadium.
“It’s special. Just hitting my first home run in old Tiger Stadium against the Tigers with the Twins, then to hit 300 against the Twins in a Tigers uniform in Target Field,” Hunter said. “It’s special. It’s kind of weird, but it’s special.”
Gardenhire has seen a lot of Hunter homers as Twins manager, many while Hunter wore a Minnesota uniform and a few while he hasn’t.
“He’s killing me,” Gardenhire said with a smile. “Not exactly happy when he does it against you, but I’m proud of him. One of the classiest guys in the game.”
Joaquin Benoit pitched the final 1 1-3 innings, earning his fourth save.
By the time Benoit entered the game, Fister had already done plenty of damage to the Twins’ struggling offense and deficit was too much to overcome.
“His cutter was working again today, too,” Dozier said. “He’s always a tough battle out there. They got ahead early and we couldn’t catch up.”
NOTES: Twins OF Josh Willingham was out of the lineup after receiving a cortisone shot in his balky left knee after Saturday’s game. He expects to return to the lineup on Tuesday. … The crowd of 39,317 was the second sellout at Target Field this season. … Minnesota has an off-day Monday before hosting a three-game series against the White Sox. Mike Pelfrey (3-6, 6.12 ERA) will start Tuesday for the Twins. Pelfrey is 0-3 in his last seven starts.
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