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BOS@MIN: Willingham doubles home a run in the fifth

MINNEAPOLIS -- Before Tuesday night's game against the Red Sox, manager Ron Gardenhire praised his team's effort this season despite a slow start, saying the club has simply been on the wrong side of a few close games.

That certainly wasn't the case just a few hours later, as Nick Blackburn lasted just three innings and the Twins' offense couldn't get much going against Josh Beckett in an 11-2 loss at Target Field.

It marked the club's largest margin of defeat this year and sunk the Twin's record to 5-13 with the worst run differential in baseball, as they have been outscored by 37 runs.

It was another case of the pitching staff faltering, as Minnesota starters have combined for a 6.73 ERA this season, which is the worst such mark in the Majors by a wide margin.

"We have to get them straightened out," Gardenhire said. "We can't go out and buy people. We've got to make this work. I can't rub a bottle to make somebody pop out. We have to make these guys work. I have a lot of confidence in these guys, but they have to get it done in the field. It doesn't matter what I say in here."

Blackburn, who missed his previous start with stiffness in his right shoulder, struggled from the start, as the Red Sox roughed up him up for five hits and three runs in the first frame.

It was more of the same in the third, when Blackburn issued a leadoff walk to Adrian Gonzalez and then David Ortiz crushed a two-run homer that landed in the second deck in right field.

Blackburn finished the third inning, but that was it from him, as he allowed up five runs on eight hits while throwing 71 pitches. Blackburn maintained that his shoulder didn't bother him during the game and didn't want to use rust as an excuse for his poor outing.

"I felt fine out there," said Blackburn, who saw his ERA to rise to 7.53. "My arm felt great. I was falling behind hitters and wasn't making pitches when I needed to. Nights like this are unfortunately going to happen. It wasn't a fun one. Obviously I haven't been off to a great start this season. I'm not looking to change anything right now. Just keep working."

The right-hander was relieved by Matt Maloney, who didn't fare any better, as the left-hander surrendered five runs on eight hits over just 1 2/3 innings.

The Twins loaded the bases against Beckett in the first, but they scored only one run on a bases-loaded walk from Justin Morneau.

"That was the story of the game," Morneau said of not capitalizing on early chances. "If we come up with another big hit there and find a way to get another run or two in there and it's a whole different game."

Beckett settled down after that first inning, as the Twins didn't score again until the fifth on an RBI double from Josh Willingham. Beckett ended up going six innings, giving up two runs on five hits and three walks.

"I probably threw a few more strikes, that's about it," Beckett said about the adjustments he made after a 37-pitch first inning. "They were pretty aggressive after that; hit some ground balls, and they made some great plays behind me. It was really about the offense today. They were on their game."

The Twins struggled with runners in scoring position once again, going just 1-for-10. They're now hitting .228 with runners in scoring position this year, compared to a .260 batting average in all other scenarios.

Morneau, though, said he still feels the club will turn it around, as the Twins have at least been in most games, even though that wasn't the case Tuesday night.

"It's kind of funny to say, but I think we're a lot better team than we've shown," Morneau said. "We've been, with the exception of tonight and maybe one or two other games, we've been in every other game and we've either had leads or battled back to tie games. We've shown some character and shown that we can play with these teams. We just haven't been able to take that final step of either putting them away or finishing them off when we need to." Comments