KANSAS CITY -- As they were zipping along on an 8-2 surge prior to the middle game of a series in Kansas City, the Twins credited their recent turnaround to stout pitching and timely hitting.
The pitching wasn't bad on Wednesday, but the timely hitting aspect disappeared in a 4-1 loss to the Royals. One big number on the scoreboard stood out. Minnesota left 14 men on base and the lack of a big hit meant big trouble. Mix in a first-inning throwing error by shortstop Pedro Florimon that led to three unearned runs and it wound up being an evening that manager Ron Gardenhire would like to forget.
"The things we've been getting done lately we didn't do tonight," Gardenhire said.
Clutch hitting comes and goes, and on Wednesday, it went.
"It was a tough night offensively for us," Gardenhire said. "We put a lot of people out there on the bases. Their pitching staff made some pitches when they had to, but we also chased some pretty bad pitches in those situations."
The Twins appeared to have Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie in big trouble in the first and they had closer Greg Holland laboring in the ninth. In both cases, the Kansas City pitchers wiggled out of jams and enabled the Royals to snap an 11-game home losing streak, which was a club record.
The Twins had a run in and the bases loaded with two outs in the first. Brian Dozier fouled out on a nifty catch right at the stands by first baseman Eric Hosmer. Then Kansas City, which has been struggling mightily to score runs, took advantage of the Florimon error and grabbed a lead it would stubbornly protect.
Against Twins starter P.J. Walters, Hosmer hit a one-out roller to shortstop and Florimon threw wildly with Hosmer moving to second. Salvador Perez followed with an RBI single and Billy Butler walked. After Mike Moustakas narrowly missed a homer with a fly ball that was caught at the track in right, Lorenzo Cain walked and David Lough came through with a two-run double.
Asked how much pride he takes in pitching around an error, Walters replied: "A lot. Pedro has played great defense. I'm sure he feels bad about the error, but right after that I gave up a hit and walked a guy. Those were bad pitches and I've got to do better than that."
Walters also said he made a bad pitch on Lough's two-run double because he left a fastball up and out over the plate. Those three unearned runs in the first looked bigger as the Twins kept squandering scoring opportunities.
The Twins opened the ninth with Joe Mauer's single followed by a walk to Josh Willingham. But Holland took a deep breath and struck out Justin Morneau, Ryan Doumit and Chris Parmelee to end the game.
"We knew we could have won that game and we should have," Parmelee said. "We had been getting the big hits in scoring situations lately, but we just didn't do that tonight. We've got to get better at that, myself included. If one guy doesn't get it done, the next guy is there to pick you up."
The Royals won a game at Kauffman Stadium for the first time since May 5. Guthrie wound up going six innings, which was quite an accomplishment after a 39-pitch first inning.
"It took him an inning to find his command, but he really limited the damage in the first inning," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Hosmer made a great play to bail him out."
The three unearned runs in the first ended Minnesota's scoreless-innings streak at 20. It was the club's longest scoreless streak since 2010 when the Twins had a 23-inning scoreless run.
For the most part, Gardenhire liked what he saw from Walters, who is now 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA in three starts. Walters gave up seven hits and walked three in six innings.
"He also made pitches when he had to," Gardenhire said. "It wasn't the prettiest thing, but he competed pretty good and kept the game right there."
Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.