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Twins lose fourth straight, 4-3 to Royals

The Minnesota Twins' struggles continued Friday night as they allowed the tiebreaking run to score on a fly ball caught by the shortstop.

Minnesota gave up two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning and lost 4-3 to the Kansas City Royals, giving the Twins their fourth straight loss and dropping them seven games below .500.

"We really set it up with bad base-running in the middle innings," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We are really strapped for pitching and we have to go out and get every run it takes. We should have had four or five runs. It was about missing the ball at the end and not getting the runs we should have gotten."

With the Royals trailing 3-2, Wilson Betemit doubled with one out in the eighth and moved to third on Kila Ka'ahiue's single off shortstop Alexi Casilla's glove. Betemit shielded Casilla on the play Gardenhire thought it should have been called an error.

Casilla said he was shielded "a little bit. But I've got to catch that ball. There's no excuse for not catching that ball."

Jarrod Dyson ran for Ka'ahiue and stole second on the first pitch as catcher Drew Butera's throw skipped into center field, allowing Betemit to score the tying run and Dyson to advance to third. Dyson then came home on Alcides Escobar's pop up that Casilla caught in shallow left field with his back to the infield.

Blake Wood (1-0) worked 1 2-3 scoreless and Joakim Soria pitched a perfect ninth for his sixth save as the Royals snapped a six-game losing streak.

Alex Burnett (0-1), just called up from Triple-A Rochester, took the loss.

The last time the Twins were more than seven games under .500 was June 7, 2006, when they were 25-33.

Twins starter Scott Baker held the Royals to two runs and eight hits in 6 1-3 innings, lowering his ERA to 3.16. He was replaced after Chris Getz's single in the seventh drove in Brayan Pena to pull the Royals to 3-2.

The Twins bullpen was depleted after losing a doubleheader Thursday to Tampa Bay.

"It's a tough spot we're in," Baker said. "I should have been more efficient with my pitches. I was just not locating the ball in the strike zone the way I like. I was still throwing strikes, just not where I wanted to."

Danny Valencia, who was 2 for 18 on the Twins' recent homestand, doubled to the left-center gap off left-hander Bruce Chen to score Jason Kubel and Justin Morneau, who had both singled, to put Minnesota up 3-1 in the sixth.

Chen gave up three runs, eight hits and two walks in 5 1-3 innings.

Luke Hughes homered in the fifth to give the Twins a 1-0 lead.

The Royals tied it in the bottom of the inning when Alex Gordon's two-out triple into the right-field corner scored Melky Cabrera, who had singled.

Both teams missed opportunities to score in the fourth. Kubel led off the top of the inning with a double off the center-field fence. He stopped at third on Michael Cuddyer's single to left with one out. Chen got Valencia on a pop up and Rene Tosoni on a grounder to short.

Jeff Francoeur was hit by a pitch from Baker with one out in the bottom of the inning and advanced to second on Ka'aihue's single to right. Francoeur attempted to score on Pena's single to right, but was thrown out at the plate by Kubel.

Francoeur went 0 for 3 to snap his career-high 17-game hitting streak, which was the longest active streak in the American League.

NOTES: Twins DH Jim Thome, who did not play in the series against Tampa Bay because of a strained oblique, took batting practice and could be available Saturday. ... Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson met Friday with LHP Francisco Lirano, who is 1-4 with a 9.13 ERA in five starts. They showed him diagrams of his inconsistent release point and talked to him about his confidence. "We'd like to get (Liriano) going, but it's not 'he's got one more start,'" Gardenhire said. "He's too good of a pitcher for that. The young man has great stuff. We're going to give him every opportunity to go out there and find himself." ... Twins RHP Kevin Slowey, sidelined by shoulder bursitis, is scheduled to throw 65-70 pitches Monday in a rehab start in Florida. ... Royals RHP Robinson Tejeda, who went on the disabled list April 14 with shoulder inflammation, is scheduled to throw batting practice Saturday.