By Joe Christensen
SEATTLE — One run in six innings against Miguel Batista? Two runs in seven innings against Ryan Rowland-Smith?
Looks like the Twins hitters are squeezing the bats into sawdust here at Safeco Field. Winning the first two games of this road trip was supposed to take the edge off, but now the Twins are 2-4.
“You can pick it how you want to pick it,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “You can say we’re pressing, or they’re pitching good. You know what? Probably a little bit of both.
“They’re throwing the ball good against us, and we’re fighting it a little bit, trying to do too much. That normally happens, but you’ve just gotta work your way through these things.
“Hopefully [Wednesday's] a day where we’ll come out relaxed a little bit and swing the bats a little better and have a better performance.”
Thirty games to go. The Twins can ill-afford to get swept here. They are 1-4 at Safeco, the home yard of a team on pace to lose 100 games.
“We’d like to pull these games out,” Twins starter Scott Baker said. “I wouldn’t say they’re must-win games yet, but they’re getting pretty close.”
“Rowland pitched against us well,” Gardy said. “He’s effectively in and out of the zone. His ball’s surprising. He’s got some zip. He’s learned to throw breaking balls.
“We saw him a few years ago. We Rule 5′d him, and you know what? He’s come a long way as a pitcher. He’s a big-strong pitcher, and he kind of shut us down.”
Baker allowed three earned runs in 6 2/3 innings. It marked the 17th time in his 22 starts he’s allowed three or fewer earned runs.
(Remember, he started 15-for-17 in that category but allowed four or more runs in 3-of-4 starts. Add this to his one-run, eight-inning performance in Anaheim, and he’s having a solid road trip.)
Tonight, the Mariners put two runners aboard to start three different innings against Baker, but he’s pretty good at damage control. This was the third time the Mariners had seen him this month.
“I felt like I had really good stuff, probably the best in a half-dozen starts,” he said. “I never felt like the game was out of control or I wasn’t able to get out of the innings.”
“I’m starting to feel like not necessarily a finished product, but back to where I want to be.”