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Bonser done in by Yanks' homers

Bonser done in by Yanks' homers

MINNEAPOLIS -- In the Twins' first series of the season against the Orioles, the offense found every kind of way to win. From power to small ball to capitalizing on mistakes, it seemed that the Twins' lineup could do nothing wrong.

Now, the club is left to ponder exactly where that offense has gone.

It's been a difficult past four games for the Twins, who have been unable to get anything going, and that was no different on Tuesday in a 10-1 loss to the Yankees.

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"You can't explain it," Michael Cuddyer said. "Sometimes, you go through periods when you get every hit when you need it, and sometimes, you can't buy one. Unfortunately, right now, we're going through the time when we haven't gotten that big hit."

Over the past four games, the Twins have scored just six runs. Offensively, they are hitting just .163 overall in that stretch, compared to the .313 they hit in the three-game series against Baltimore.

The struggles started when the Twins left for Chicago and headed to the bitter cold temperatures that included one postponed game due to the wintry mess. But while the bats may have grown cold during that series, things haven't improved at all upon the return home, and the team is left trying to find answers.

"Right now, we're just getting beat," center fielder Torii Hunter said. "We were pumped up to come home, and the energy was there. We played good ball the first few days at home, and then we went to Chicago. [The trip] kind of broke the rhythm, and now we're trying to find it again."

Part of the problem, at least over the past two games, could have something to do with the club falling behind early.

For the second night in a row, things started to go south immediately for a Twins starter. That was the case for Boof Bonser, who gave up three runs in the first two innings on Tuesday. But it was after giving up a single to Derek Jeter in the first that Bonser saw the initial glimpses of what trouble he might hit. One batter later, Alex Rodriguez came to the plate and blasted a 3-2 changeup that was supposed to hit the dirt but was left up and was hit 423 feet into the left-field seats to give New York a 2-0 lead.

It was Rodriguez's sixth home run of the season. He is hitting .357 on the year with 15 RBIs, and it's clear just how locked in the third baseman appears right to be right now.

It wasn't just Rodriguez who was able to capitalize on Bonser's mistakes.

Bonser (0-1) appeared to be getting into a better groove after giving up one more run in the second, settling down to retire seven straight batters. But that's when trouble seemed to find him again in the fifth. Bonser led off the inning by walking Doug Mientkiewicz, then he gave up a single to Melky Cabrera before things went awry.

Home runs were Bonser's downfall on the night, as they have been during his young career. In 20 career starts, Bonser has given up 21 home runs. It was that 21st homer that came with two men on in the fifth inning on Tuesday, as Bonser gave up a three-run shot to Johnny Damon. The 394-foot homer, which bounced off the plexiglas windows of the suites in right field, gave the Yankees a six-run lead and essentially put the game out of reach. It also signaled that the end was near for Bonser, who lasted 4 1/3 innings, giving up six earned runs on six hits while striking out just one.

"I don't know what happened there when I went out for the fifth; it was just the wheels came off," Bonser said.

Pitching problems might be hurting the Twins, but it's clear that the offense's inability to get anything going has started to put the team into a bit of a funk. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire blamed the troubles before Tuesday's game on the quality pitching the club has faced, and that was something he claimed again after Tuesday's start by Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte.

Pettitte held the Twins to just four hits in six scoreless innings on the night. Pettitte (1-0) walked one and struck out three in his second start of the year.

"You give a guy like Andy Pettitte a lead, a proven veteran who knows what to do with a lead, and when he gets that lead, he goes out there and exploits it," Cuddyer said. "He did that tonight."

The Twins had some scoring opportunities early, advancing a runner to third base in the second and fourth innings, but it was an inability to hit in those situations that again proved to be the Twins' Achilles' heel. Over the past four games, the Twins are hitting a paltry .143 with runners in scoring position.

"We know we're not swinging the best we can swing right now as a unit," Gardenhire said. "A few guys are still batting the ball pretty good, but overall as a unit, we're not swinging good. But you just keep playing."

The lone Twins run came in the seventh after reliever Scott Proctor walked the first two batters he faced. With two outs in the inning, Jason Kubel pinch-hit for Jason Bartlett and delivered an RBI single to right field to make it a 7-1 game.

But the Twins' pitching woes continued later when Dennys Reyes gave up three runs in the ninth and made the game look like even more of a blowout than it had earlier in the night.

Still, even with all the troubles that have arisen over their past few games, the Twins are trying to remember the lessons that were achieved from their slow start last season.

"One thing I learned and I hope a lot of people learned is that we started off bad last year and we ended up winning the division along with the MVP [and] batting champion," Hunter said. "Baseball is a patient game. That's what we have to understand. I think we understand that, and we know it's going to turn around."

Now, the only question that remains is when.

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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