MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins still can't find what they've been seeking most of the season -- quality starts.
Right-hander Carl Pavano cruised for three straight innings on Saturday after allowing some early offense. Then came the fifth inning, and the game spiraled out of control. The Tigers tagged Pavano for four runs on six hits in that inning alone, knocking him out of the game.
Denard Span and Justin Morneau each hit solo home runs, but Minnesota struck out 16 times and couldn't stage a comeback, and dropped its fourth-straight game, 6-3, in front of 37,360 at Target Field. The Twins are now 2-10 in their last 12 home games against Detroit.
After allowing two runs on three hits in the first inning, Pavano recovered, retiring 11 of the next 12 batters he faced. His outing unraveled in the fifth though, as Detroit's first three batters each registered singles to right field to begin a four-run inning.
"I got us out on the wrong foot giving up two runs," Pavano said. "I've pitched against these guys enough to know they're aggressive."
Alex Avila and Ramon Santiago opened Detroit's big fifth with back-to-back singles to right field, with Avila making his way to third on Santiago's hit. Quintin Berry slapped another Tigers single to right to score Avila for a 3-2 lead. Both Berry and Santiago touched home on the next at-bat, when Andy Dirks lined a double to the left-field gap. Miguel Cabrera then drove in Dirks with a line single to right, giving Detroit a 6-2 advantage.
None of the inning-opening singles were particularly well hit, but they all found space through the right side.
"That would be kind of an easy way to look at it that way, but that's not how I look at it," Pavano said. "There was a stretch in the middle where I made some good pitches and got some outs, but that inning, it's just a game of inches."
The six-straight hits were enough for the Twins to yank Pavano in exchange for Brian Duensing. Duensing put an end to the big inning with one pitch, forcing Delmon Young to ground into a double play.
The quick hook meant the bullpen trio of Duensing, Jared Burton, and Glen Perkins had to work 4 2/3 innings.
"Again, too many innings out of our bullpen," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We've got a figure out a way to get deeper into games. It sounds like a broken record, but it's just the way it is."
Minnesota batters struck out 16 times for the first time since Sept. 28, 2000, against Cleveland. Detroit starter Max Scherzer accounted for nine of them.
"It seemed like we swung and missed several times," Span said. "Scherzer is definitely a swing-and-miss type pitcher."
But the two most important strikeouts came courtesy of Joaquin Benoit in the eighth inning.
Jamey Carroll slapped a leadoff single, and Ben Revere legged out an infield hit. Then both Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham fell victim to Benoit fastballs for strikeouts, ending the inning.
Span's first home run of the season came on a solo shot to right in the sixth. It broke up a string of 13 straight retired batters for Scherzer. Revere and Mauer followed with singles to right field before the game was halted for 42 minutes because of rain. Any hopes for a Twins rally seemed to be soaked up by the tarp, as Josh Willingham struck out looking and Morneau popped out after the delay to end the threat. Overall, the game was delayed for 63 minutes.
Span's homer was Minnesota's first hit since Morneau's one-run blast tied the game at 2 in the second. Morneau sent Scherzer's 3-1 changeup over the right-field wall an estimated 438 feet for his ninth home run of the season and his fourth in five games. The run scored tied him with Zoilo Versalles for 12th on the Twins' all-time list at 564. Morneau is also now six homers away from 200 for his career.
"He got down and got it, he's a good hitter," Scherzer said. "You just tip your hat. I have a good changeup, I am going to keep throwing my changeup."
Detroit grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Cabrera drove in Andy Dirks on a double before scoring on a Prince Fielder single.
Minnesota managed one run in the first after putting runners on the corners with no outs. Span doubled off the right-field wall to start the inning. He advanced to third on a Revere single, then scored when Mauer hit into his Major League-leading 11th double play.
Jordan Garretson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.