MINNEAPOLIS -- All of the Twins' flaws this season were on display in their 7-6 loss to the Royals on Friday night at Target Field.
Their starting pitcher struggled, as Carl Pavano allowed five runs (four earned) over 6 1/3 innings. They couldn't come up with key hits, considering the Twins went just 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position. And the bullpen faltered late by allowing two runs in the eighth inning.
Add it all up, and the Twins were saddled with their sixth straight loss and fell to 5-15 on the season, which is the worst mark in the Majors.
"We're giving up a lot of runs right now," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We're scoring some runs but we always seem to come one run short. The pitching has to do a better job, obviously, and we need to find a way to get that big hit to put us over the hump and take a lead and hold it."
Pavano was the latest Twins pitcher to struggle, as the starters have combined for a Major League-worst 7.01 ERA. He said it was particularly tough to swallow after the club was coming off an off-day after being swept by the Red Sox.
"My focus going into the game was trying to get us back on track after we had a tough series against Boston," Pavano said. "But I didn't do my job. I gave us some innings, but they weren't quality innings. Obviously, there's a difference."
Mike Moustakas provided the go-ahead run with an RBI single to score Jeff Francoeur after he doubled against left-hander Brian Duensing. Alcides Escobar then tacked on an RBI single of his own off right-hander Jeff Gray.
The Twins scored a run in the eighth, as Alexi Casilla scored Danny Valencia on an RBI groundout. But Denard Span stranded Trevor Plouffe at third, as he grounded out to first to end the inning.
"We left some pitches up late in the ballgame and they were able to knock in some runs and unfortunately for us we couldn't come up with a big hit to tie it or take a lead," Gardenhire said. "It's the same story. We're seeing it too many times right now. We need to find a way to win them."
It came after Minnesota lost out on a prime opportunity in the seventh against former Twins reliever Jose Mijares, as they had two on with none out. But Justin Morneau flied out on a diving play from Jarrod Dyson in center before Ryan Doumit lined out to right field on a double play, even though video replays indicated the ball was trapped by Francoeur.
Gardenhire said he told first-base umpire Brian Gorman that Francoeur had has glove to the ground, which makes it tough to make a catch, but Gorman told Gardenhire he thought Francoeur caught it. Francoeur agreed with Gorman's assessment after the game.
"I never felt it hit the ground," Francoeur said. "I got up right away and threw to first base," he said. "I'm dang sure I caught it."
The Twins tied it up in the sixth on an RBI double from Casilla with two outs. But Ben Revere was held by third-base coach Steve Liddle and was stranded there, as Span struck out.
The Royals got out to a quick lead in the first inning against Pavano, as Dyson reached on a error by Morneau before Alex Gordon hit a two-run blast.
The Twins came back to tie it in the bottom of the frame against left-hander Everett Teaford, as Joe Mauer laced an RBI triple to score Span before scoring on a single from Morneau. Plouffe added a solo homer in the second inning, moments after Valencia was robbed of a homer by Gordon in left field.
Kansas City used the long ball to its advantage again in the third, when Billy Butler launched a two-run homer after Gordon singled with one out.
Span tied the game again in the fourth on an RBI single with two outs, but the Royals came right back with a run in the fifth on a bloop single from Butler to score Gordon, who walked and stole second.
But the Twins simply struggled with runners in scoring position late in the game, as they ended up leaving seven runners on base.
"We have to do better with runners in scoring position," Plouffe said. "It's something we have to do. We have to pick each other up. But if we continue to do what we're doing, we're almost there. We're close."