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Updated: June 29th, 2012 10:02pm
Ninth-inning rally comes up short for Twins offense in loss to Royals

Ninth-inning rally comes up short for Twins offense in loss to Royals

by Phil Mackey
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Twins bats went silent yet again in a 4-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Friday night at Target Field.

The skinny

The Twins offense was held almost completely punchless by Royals right-hander Luis Mendoza, who allowed only one run on five hits in a season-high eight innings. Mendoza also matched a season-high with five strikeouts.

Friday marked the 14th consecutive game in which the Twins offense has scored five runs or fewer.

The Twins mounted a ninth-inning rally against Royals closer Jonathan Broxton, with Joe Mauer's RBI double cutting the lead to 4-2 and Josh Willingham's groundout slicing the deficit to 4-3. But Broxton got Justin Morneau to fly out and Trevor Plouffe to pop out to end the game.

"Their starter, that's the second time he's got us," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He got us in relief, came over in a game after an injury at a game over in KC, shut us down and he did it again tonight. Mixed his pitches up really well, put the ball in and out, really didn't give us much of a chance. We didn't really do too much off the guy, so fantastic job by him. I guess when we got their closer in there, we gave them a good run."

Brian Duensing, making his second start of the season, was on a pitch count between 65-70, and that's about where he ran out of steam on Friday.

The Royals started the fifth inning with three consecutive hits -- a bunt single by Alcides Escobar, a sharp single to left by Alex Gordon, and a run-scoring double to the gap in left by Yuniesky Betancourt on Duensing's 66th pitch. Anthony Swarzak came on in relief and induced a pop-out, a fielder's choice and a lineout to end the threat.

"I've got to find a way to miss down when I miss," said Duensing, who added that fatigue wasn't an issue. "Last year and this year, starting-wise, for some reason when I miss everything's up in the zone. I'm not missing down in the zone. When that happens you get hit around a lot, and hard."

Duensing was charged with three earned runs on eight hits while striking out one in four-plus innings.

Eric Hosmer drove in a run with two outs in the seventh when his chopper hit off the mitt of pitcher Kyle Waldrop and into no-man's land between first and second base.

Ryan Doumit, just hours after signing a new two-year deal, drove in the Twins' first run with a two-out single in the second inning.

A fan ran onto the field in the bottom of the seventh inning, but he was quickly swarmed by a group of security guards and escorted away.

Turning point

Mendoza hadn't completed more than six innings in any of his eight previous starts this season, but the Twins -- in three full trips through the order -- failed to take advantage.

Numbers game

2.8: Runs per game by the Twins offense since June 14.

6: Strikeouts for left-hander Tyler Robertson in his first 3 1/3 big-league innings.

Health report

• OF Joe Benson experienced some soreness in his surgically-repaired hand in a GCL game on Thursday night, so he will be temporarily shut down. The Twins are hoping Benson can get back into a game within the next few days. Prior to the injury, Benson -- ranked as Baseball America's 99th-best prospect heading into the year -- was demoted from Triple-A Rochester to Double-A New Britain due to poor performance.

• RHP Alex Wimmers (strained elbow) has been playing catch down in Florida, and Twins are hopeful he can get back on a mound sometime in late-July.

On deck

Saturday: vs. Royals, 12:10 p.m. LHP Scott Diamond (6-3, 2.67) vs. LHP Jonathan Sanchez (1-3, 6.21)
Saturday: vs. Royals, 6:10 p.m. RHP Cole De Vries (1-1, 4.20) vs. RHP Luke Hochevar (5-7, 5.07)
Sunday: vs. Royals, 1:10 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano (2-7, 5.30) vs. LHP Bruce Chen (7-6, 4.53)

Phil Mackey is a columnist for He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd