Game 8: Offense struggles again in loss to Cards

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Twins snapped their 27-inning scoreless streak and rallied late with a run in the ninth inning, but ultimately dropped their third straight game with a 3-2 loss to the Cardinals on Friday.

What went right: Marquis looked much better than he did in his first start on Monday against the Red Sox, when he couldn’t finish the second inning and allowed four runs. He wasn’t perfect against the Cardinals — he gave up one run on three hits and a walk over three innings — but it was still an improvement.

Glen Perkins, Phil Dumatrait, Casey Fien, Tyler Robertson and Deolis Guerra each threw a scoreless inning in relief. Perkins, making his first appearance since signing his three-year extension worth $10.3 million yesterday, pitched a perfect fourth inning with two strikeouts.

The Twins broke their scoreless streak on a walk with the bases loaded in the fourth. It was a good at-bat from Joe Benson, who fell behind 0-2 against right-hander Trevor Rosenthal, but worked the count and ultimately drew the walk.

But unfortunately for the Twins it was only one of a few good at-bats, as they didn’t score again until the ninth inning when Pedro Florimon drew a bases-loaded walk of his own.

What went wrong: The Twins have had troubles scoring runs all spring, and it continued against the Cardinals. After being shut out in back-to-back games, they scored just two runs and they both came on walks.

Closer Matt Capps also gave up a solo shot to Rafael Furcal in the fourth inning. He had trouble keeping the ball in the park last year, as he served up 10 homers in 65 2/3 innings. Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson said the homer came on a cutter, which Capps is working on developing this spring.

The defense didn’t commit any errors, but still managed to botch a few plays in the eighth. Second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka couldn’t turn a double play, as he didn’t get out of the way of Daniel Descalso and threw the ball away.

“He just needs to eat that ball because that’s how he got his leg broken,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire explained. “He’s trying to hang in there too long. He needs to get out of the way. On a slow hit ball, he’s not going to turn two. The only way he can deliver that ball is if he clears that base by coming forward or going backwards. You can’t stay at the bag. You’re going to get killed.”

Shortstop Pedro Florimon then couldn’t handle a hard grounder from Shane Robinson with two outs that allowed a run to score. And on the same play, Twins third baseman Michael Hollimon failed to cut off the throw from left field, which allowed Robinson to reach second.

The Twins rallied with a run in the ninth against right-hander Victor Marte, but left the bases loaded, as Rene Tosoni grounded out to end the game. Tosoni swung at the first pitch despite the fact Marte was having control problems and walked two batters.

What they said: “I don’t know — we didn’t sign him to hit — not yet,” Gardenhire said when asked if Marquis is a good hitter.

What’s next: Right-hander Terry Doyle starts against the Pirates on Saturday in Bradenton. It marks the Rule 5 Draft pick’s second start of Grapefruit League play, as he tossed two scoreless frames against the Rays on Sunday. Justin Morneau, who didn’t play on Friday, is expected to serve as designated hitter. The Twins are also scheduled to play in a “B” game against the Pirates with right-hander Scott Baker making the start.

Injury update: A day after making his first appearance in the infield, Luke Hughes played four innings at first base without any issues. Hughes, who is battling a sprained right shoulder, made a throwing error on Thursday, but didn’t have to make any throws on Friday.

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