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Twins lacking in the clutch

SEATTLE -- Minnesota Twins right-hander Kevin Slowey quickly pinpointed his problem Sunday. He couldn't keep the ball down. The harder he tried, it only seemed to get worse, and he gave up a season-high three home runs in a 4-2 loss to the Marine...

SEATTLE -- Minnesota Twins right-hander Kevin Slowey quickly pinpointed his problem Sunday.

He couldn't keep the ball down. The harder he tried, it only seemed to get worse, and he gave up a season-high three home runs in a 4-2 loss to the Mariners at Safeco Field.

The same thing goes for Twins hitters. They know why they keep losing on the road. It's an inability to produce timely hits. But the harder they try, the worse it gets.

Added together, Slowey's first shaky outing in six starts, and the Twins' continued struggles with runners in scoring position proved a bad combination. The Twins dropped two of three in the series, falling to 7-18 on the road.

"It's the same old story," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I wish I had an answer how to change it. We're getting (runners) out there, we're just not getting them in."

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The Twins actually had some success with runners in scoring position, tying the score 2-2 in the fifth inning on an RBI ground out by Justin Morneau and a sacrifice fly by Joe Crede.

Those weren't hits, so they technically didn't help the staggeringly bad numbers. The Twins finished 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position for the game, 2-for-24 for the series, leaving their average with RISP at .154 (19-for-123) over their past 13 road games.

Of course, maybe success with runners in scoring position is overrated. The Mariners just went 0-for-13 with RISP in back-to-back games, yet managed to win them both against the Twins.

Sunday's turning point came right after the Twins tied the score, when Jose Lopez and Jamie Burke homered off Slowey in the fifth inning.

"You finally get back in the game and boom-boom, there it is," Gardenhire said. "That's where we really need to go out there and get a stop, and we didn't do it, and that was a momentum thing."

Slowey (8-2) had stranded eight runners on base over the first four innings, but his luck ran out in the fifth. Burke's home run was just the third of his career, and Sunday was his first day back from Class AAA Tacoma.

"I didn't throw well," Slowey said. "I knew what I was doing wrong, and I still didn't correct it."

The Twins managed just five runs in the series, facing Felix Hernandez, Jarrod Washburn and Erik Bedard -- none of whom has an ERA above 3.22.

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Bedard (5-2) had to throw 51 pitches in the first two innings and was gone after the fifth, but once again, the Twins couldn't capitalize against the Mariners bullpen.

Safeco's spacious dimensions continued to frustrate the Twins, as Brendan Harris hit a double to deep left center in the sixth -- a home run in most other ballparks -- and Justin Morneau flied out to that same warning track in the ninth.

"They've got some good arms in that bullpen," Morneau said. "But still, when you get the starter out in the fifth inning, it's supposed to be a good thing, and we didn't take advantage of it."

Notes: Seattle Seahawks first-round draft pick LB Aaron Curry threw out the first pitch. . . . It was the second time in his career Slowey allowed three home runs in a game. The last time was June 17, 2007, against Milwaukee.

Up next

What: Four-game series starting tonight in Oakland.

When: 9:05 p.m. today-Wednesday; 2:35 p.m. Thursday.

TV/radio: FSN (GF Channel 28) today-Wednesday; KNOX (1310 AM) all games.

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Today's starting pitchers: Minnesota, Anthony Swarzak (1-2); Oakland, Josh Outman (3-0).

Of note: Minnesota shortstop Brendan Harris extended his career-high hitting streak to 12 games with a double in the sixth inning of Sunday's game. . . . Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau of the Twins combined to go 3 for 23 in the Seattle series.

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