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Royals bullpen falters in 8-4 loss to Twins

After Royals starter Bruce Chen labored through five innings, Kansas City manager Ned Yost went to his bullpen hoping to find a couple of arms who were sharper out of the All-Star break.

No such luck.

Blake Wood and Everett Teaford faltered badly in a four-run seventh inning that put the game out of reach and the Royals fell 8-4 to the Minnesota Twins on Thursday night.

Wood walked three and hit another batter while being charged with four runs, and Teaford gave up a two-run single to Joe Mauer in relief of Bruce Chen (5-3). Chen gave up four runs on nine hits with three walks in five innings.

"Just a day, actually the first day all year where nobody was sharp," Yost said.

Trevor Plouffe hit a big two-run homer and Delmon Young had three hits in his return to the lineup for the Twins.

Francisco Liriano (6-7) gave up three runs — one earned — on seven hits with four strikeouts in seven innings and Mauer added two hits and two RBIs.

Melky Cabrera had two hits, an RBI and threw a runner out at home from center field for the Royals, who have lost 13 of their last 16 games against the AL Central.

"Bruce wasn't sharp tonight, nobody was really sharp tonight out of the pitching side of it," Yost said. "Bruce was in and out of trouble really every inning and then pitched his way out of it."

The Royals were showing some signs of finally digging out of the cellar early in the season, starting the year 20-17. They are 17-38 since then to fade out of contention, though youngsters like Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are giving their long-suffering fans reason to hope that better days are around the corner.

Kansas City scratched and clawed its way to a 2-0 lead in the first inning when Cabrera scored on a wild pitch and Alex Gordon hustled home from second base on the play after Mauer's ill-advised pitch to Liriano at home plate skipped by him.

With a fastball that never topped 84 mph, Chen was somehow able to get through four scoreless innings. He stranded seven runners before the Twins finally got to him in the fifth.

Young, who played for the first time since June 25 because of a sprained ankle, hit his second double of the game to score Valencia and Plouffe's two-run homer hit high off the foul pole in left field to give the Twins a 4-3 lead.

Plouffe, who was recalled from Triple-A to start this game, was initially slated to play first base. But Jim Thome was a late scratch with a left toe injury, so Plouffe was moved to DH.

"I feel bad," Chen said. "I felt like my teammates went out there and played very hard. We got two early runs in the first round and then we got another run."

Wood came out to start the seventh and walked Ben Revere with the bases loaded before hitting Casilla to make it 6-3. Mauer followed with a two-run single of Teaford to cap the four-run inning.

"We have one of the best bullpens if not the best bullpen in the league," Royals catcher Brayan Pena said. "We have young guys that are improving and they will get better."

Notes: Cabrera threw out Alexi Casilla at home in the first inning to get Chen out of a bases loaded, one-out jam. It was his 10th assist of the season. ... Chen faced Casilla three times, allowing two singles. He threw over to first base to keep the speedy Casilla close to the bag 14 times total. ... Mauer's error snapped a career-high 96-game errorless streak.