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Updated: April 29th, 2011 11:11pm
Twins Daily: Eighth-inning debacle yields fourth consecutive loss

Twins Daily: Eighth-inning debacle yields fourth consecutive loss

by Nate Sandell
1500ESPN.com
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Even a stellar outing by Scott Baker couldn't help the Minnesota Twins put an end to their losing woes. The Twins blew an eighth-inning lead over the Kansas City Royals on Friday night and lost their fourth straight game 4-3.

The skinny

After a forgettable three-game series against Tampa Bay in which they were outscored 29-6, the Twins (9-16) were desperate for a win. The Royals' Kauffman Stadium, which usually serves as a home away from home for the Twins, could provide little relief.

Both teams received strong performances from their starters, Baker and Bruce Chen. Baker allowed just two runs off eight hits in six-and-one-third innings, while Chen gave up three runs in five and a third.

There was no score going into the fifth inning when Luke Hughes broke the stalemate with a homerun to put the Twins up 1-0. The Royals would answer back later that inning with a run of their own, but Danny Valencia's two run, bases-clearing double in the sixth inning gave the Twins a 3-1 lead -- the team's first in four games.

That lead didn't hold as the Twins collapsed down the stretch, giving up two runs in the eighth inning. The Royals received lights-out relief from their bullpen, which kept the Twins off the scoreboard after their fifth inning outburst.

Turning point

With the Twins' bullpen depleted, Alex Burnett stayed on to pitch the eighth inning, trying to preserve a 3-2 lead. He looked to be well on his way, striking out leadoff batter Jeff Francoeur. But it all fell apart from there.

The next batter, Wilson Betemit, lined a 3-1 fastball from Burnett into left field for a double. Kila Ka'aihue followed by rocketing a ground ball to Alexi Casilla, who could not get a handle on it, allowing Ka'aihue to reach and moving Betemit to third.

The Royals subbed Jarrod Dyson in for Ka'aihue to add some speed to the basepaths. With that the steal was on. Catcher Drew Butera tried to nab Dyson at second but botched the throw, giving Betemit the chance to score easily. One batter later, Alcides Escobar capped the Royals comeback with a sacrifice fly that scored the go-ahead runner to give them a 4-3 lead.

Numbers game

16: Innings Baker had gone without surrendering a run before Alex Gordon singled in Melky Cabrera in the fifth.

2: Career home runs for Luke Hughes after his rocket in the fifth inning.

6: Consecutive games in which the Twins have not scored a run in the first or second inning.

Health watch

• RHP Kevin Slowey (shoulder strain) is currently on his rehabilitation assignment in Florida. Gardenhire said on Friday the team expects to have Slowey throw 65 to 70 pitches in his next outing in preparation for a possible return to the starting rotation.

• DH Jim Thome (strained oblique) missed all of the Tampa Bay series, but could be back in the line-up as early as Saturday.

• OF Jason Repko (left quad) was cleared by trainers earlier today and was available as a pinch hitter.

On deck

In his last three starts, Brian Duensing (2-0, 3.00) has not given up more than two earned runs, posting a 2.25 ERA in that stretch. He gets the nod Saturday (6:10 p.m., 1500 ESPN) as the Twins try to salvage a series win and snap their losing streak. Duensing will oppose Royals right-hander Sean O'Sullivan, who has surrendered just two runs off a combined 10 hits in his last two appearances.

Coming up

• Sunday: at Kansas City, 1:10 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano (2-2, 5.12) vs. Luke Hochevar (2-3, 5.68).
• Monday: Off day.
• Tuesday: at Chicago White Sox, 7:10 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano (1-4, 9.13) RHP Edwin Jackson (2-3, 5.86)

Nate Sandell is a contributor to 1500ESPN.com.
Email Nate | @nsandell
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