MINNEAPOLIS -- In the end, Minnesota's bullpen blew another one -- after the latest strong start by Francisco Liriano.
This was a bad time for the Twins to stop hitting, though -- not to mention make one big mistake on the bases.
David DeJesus hit the winning single in the 10th inning for the Kansas City Royals in a 3-2 victory at Minnesota on Thursday, keeping the Twins in second place for at least another day and wasting eight impressive innings by Liriano.
"We didn't score enough runs today. That's the bottom line. Our pitching was great," said catcher Mike Redmond.
Liriano's longest start since July 28, 2006, which matched the second-longest outing of his career, wasn't enough. Minnesota woke up one game back in the AL Central race, with the White Sox hosting Toronto at night.
Matt Guerrier (6-8) gave up two one-out singles in the 10th before DeJesus hit the first pitch from Dennys Reyes into left field for the lead, putting relievers on the hook for eight of the team's last 11 losses. The Twins have lost 12 of their last 18 overall.
The seeds of defeat were sewn long before they lost for the fifth time in their last six extra-inning games, however. Minnesota, by far the best in the majors this year with runners in scoring position, squandered several opportunities to build a healthy lead against starter Brandon Duckworth and reliever Ron Mahay.
After Carlos Gomez gave the Twins a 2-1 lead with a one-out RBI single in the second, he took a lead off first base and fell for Duckworth's slide step, froze and stumbled. He got into a rundown and was eventually tagged out trying to dive back into the bag.
"Just looked like he was not paying much attention," an upset manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He just kind of jumped out there."
Gomez said he wasn't trying to steal.
"It happens. Nobody wants to be in a situation like this," said Gomez, whose energy and exuberance has worked against him and his team many times this year.
He wasn't the only offensive culprit. Alexi Casilla grounded into a double play to end the fifth, and Redmond did the same to squelch a potential rally in the sixth after consecutive singles started the frame. With two on and two out in the seventh, Casilla popped out to third.
"These guys get paid to get you out, and today they did that," Redmond said.
Indeed, and Mahay, John Bale, Ramon Ramirez (3-2) and Joakim Soria (36th save) combined for five scoreless innings with only one hit and one walk allowed after Duckworth left two batters into the sixth. He gave up seven hits and two walks while striking out five.
"We feel that anytime we get into the bullpen, we can match up with just about anybody," Duckworth said.
The Twins haven't said that in a while. Liriano retired 17 of his last 18 batters before turning the ninth over to Joe Nathan, who pitched a perfect inning. But Guerrier and Reyes couldn't get the outs they needed. Guerrier's ERA rose to 4.84.
"These guys are fine. We're going to be fine," Redmond said. "It's just a mindset. What's happened has happened."
Esteban German hit an RBI single in the second and Jose Guillen drove in a run with a double in the third, but Liriano didn't flinch after that. The left-hander turned in his lowest pitch count, 95, in eight starts since his recall from Triple-A. He's 5-0 with a 1.57 ERA during that time.
"His fastball started biting and his slider got better as he went along," Gardenhire said. "Our starters are giving us opportunities, and we keep doing that, we'll be OK."
The Twins packed for another extended period on the road, this a 10-game trip that will take them to Baltimore, Cleveland and AL East-leading Tampa Bay before they return home for the final six games of the regular season. From Aug. 21 through Sept. 22, they play at the Metrodome only six times.
They went 5-9 on their last journey, a four-city itinerary, but because of Chicago's simultaneous slide Minnesota lost just a half-game in the standings over those 14 games.
"It might feel like a piece of cake compared to the last one," said right-hander Scott Baker, who will start on Friday night against the Orioles. "By that last series of the last road trip, we were a little burned out. I think this one will be a lot better. Regardless of how many games we play on the road, we've got to play better."
After a pair of lethargic losses, the Royals bounced back. They also won for the sixth time in their last eight extra-inning games.
"I think we've been pretty focused," manager Trey Hillman said.
Justin Morneau drove in his 120th run, the sixth time a Twins player has reached that mark in one season. Harmon Killebrew has the record, with 140 in 1969. Morneau had 130 when he won the AL MVP award in 2006. ... With Zack Greinke scheduled to pitch the first game, the Royals are leaning toward sending Robinson Tejeda to the mound for the second half of Saturday's doubleheader in Cleveland. Tejeda has 46 career starts, mostly with Texas in 2006 and 2007. Hillman said the 26-year-old right-hander, who has been used exclusively in relief this season, will have a chance to earn a spot in the rotation next spring. "At this point, honestly, anybody could be a candidate," Hillman said, "because of the lack of wins that we've gotten."