Jim Souhan
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You can soak the Twins’ performance in euphemisms, marinate it in clichés, drizzle it with excuses, and bake it in the usual “It’s a long season” oven, and it would still taste like refried refuse.

The Twins, at the moment, stink. They look like they are playing underwater, and they have promised Phil Hughes another start. I would ask why, but I’m afraid they might tell me, and some things you cannot unhear.

Sunday, the Twins lost 8-2 to the woeful Reds, meaning they have won one of their past 10 games.

They were swept by a bad Tampa Bay team.

They were swept by a good Yankees team.

They won just one of three against a horrific Reds team that fired its manager in April.

Twins fans tend to obsess about losses to the Yankees. At least those are understandable. The Yankees field good teams filled with power hitters who get the benefit of umpires’ calls when playing at Yankee Stadium.

Jose Berrios was given a strike zone the size of an ear bud Tuesday in the Bronx, and good hitters took advantage. At least the Yankees losses reside in the realm of logic and history.

Losing five of six to Tampa Bay and Cincinnati is inexplicable and damaging.

Yes, the Twins have 139 games remaining. Yes, they could surge and make the playoffs, just as they did last year. Yes, if this were the NFL regular season, the Twins would still be playing their second game.

They have also demonstrated during this unwatchable stretch that they are more dependent than they would like to admit on Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton being healthy and outstanding, and right now neither is either.

To watch the Twins play without them is to be transported back to 2011, when the franchise had to adapt to life without a healthy and helpful Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.

Buxton is recovering from a foot injury. He is batting .195 with no homers in 41 at-bats. What is remarkable about watching the Twins play without him is the realization that they would miss him if he never got another big-league hit.

With Buxton, their outfield is the place triples go to die. Without him, their outfield is the place doubles go to become triples.

Buxton’s fielding, speed, base-stealing ability, hustle, fire and energy are vital to this sleepwalking team. Considering that he has the ability to perform like an MVP — as he did the second half of last season — Buxton has proved irreplaceable even before he has earned a permanent spot in the top half of the lineup.

Sano missed his second consecutive game because of a hamstring strain Sunday, and manager Paul Molitor did not sound optimistic about the third baseman returning on Monday.

The Twins front office believes that such soft-tissue injuries are usually the result of dehydration. In other words, they are often preventable.

Sano weighed about 285 pounds when he could not recover from a leg injury in time to compete in the playoff game last season. He is heavier this year — I’m hearing he hovers around 290 or 295 pounds — and now he is missing games in April because of a hamstring injury while his team falters.

Without Buxton in the lineup, the Twins look markedly slower. Without Sano in the lineup, they look markedly less intimidating. He is batting .213 and has struck out 36 times in 80 at-bats, yet the Twins need even this slow-starting, free-flailing version of Sano in the lineup.

After the game, reliever Tyler Duffey slammed his way around the clubhouse, upset about being sent back to the minors. That is a measure of where the Twins stand: A pitcher with an ERA of 13.50 can’t understand why he doesn’t belong.

Before the game, Eduardo Escobar sipped from his dugout flask labeled “Esky’s Win Water,” then produced a quarter of the Twins’ hits. He might want to share, and the Twins better hope the water is from Lourdes.