KANSAS CITY -- You have to go way back to find the last time the Twins struck out as many times as they did on Wednesday night against the Royals.
With 16 strikeouts, the Twins tied for the third-most in franchise history in a nine-inning game trailing only their 17 strikeouts on Sept. 30, 1972, against the Angels and their 18 strikeouts on Sept. 13, 1995, against the Mariners. The pitchers those nights were Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan and five-time Cy Young Award winner Randy Johnson, respectively.
This time, however, it came against 24-year-old lefty Danny Duffy in his return from Tommy John surgery and a gang of relievers in a 5-2 loss to the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
"Ultimately, we had too many strikeouts," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I don't even know how many times we struck out, but it was too many. Their young kid was winging it pretty good. He had a great arm and the ball was flying all over the place, so he made us uncomfortable."
It came on a night when Samuel Deduno, who has been the club's most consistent starter this year, failed to go at least six innings for the first time in nearly two months.
Deduno, who had gone at least six innings in each of his previous nine outings, gave up four runs on a season-high 12 hits, but he didn't walk a batter for the first time this year.
"They made some pretty good adjustments," said Deduno, who entered with a career 0.93 ERA in three starts against Kansas City. "I made my pitches and they hit it good today. I threw my curveball and maybe they were just waiting on it."
Deduno was spotted an early lead, as Brian Dozier led off the game with a triple and scored on a wild pitch from Duffy, who was making his first Major League start since May 13, 2012, after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his left elbow.
The Royals tied it up with a run in the third on an RBI single from Alcides Escobar to score Brett Hayes, who led off the inning with a double.
Dozier gave the Twins the lead again in the fourth with an RBI double to bring home Clete Thomas, who walked and reached second on a groundout from Pedro Florimon. The double, one of Dozier's three hits as he finished a home run shy of the cycle, knocked Duffy from the game after just 3 2/3 innings. The left-hander gave up two runs on six hits and two walks with seven strikeouts.
"I wasn't where I'd like to be efficiency-wise," Duffy said. "My curveball has been really good in [Triple-A] Omaha and it just wasn't there today, I tried to do too much with it. Thankfully, the changeup was really on point tonight and I was able to battle through 3 2/3, but that is just not acceptable as a starting pitcher."
The lead was short-lived for the Twins, as Deduno gave up two runs in the bottom of the inning. Alex Gordon started it off with a solo blast to center field before Miguel Tejada, Hayes and Escobar put together three straight singles with two outs.
"They were shooting balls the other way on him," Gardenhire said. "It looked like they made some adjustments on him and sat on his breaking pitches, and had some big hits. They made it tough on him, but he battled as best as he could and hung in there."
Kansas City added another run against Deduno in the fifth on an RBI single from Lorenzo Cain, but he was thrown out at second base by right fielder Chris Colabello trying to stretch it into a double. Deduno recorded two outs in the sixth after giving up a leadoff single to Tejada before being taken out in favor of reliever Caleb Thielbar.
"He's had all kinds of success against us," Royals manager Ned Yost said about Deduno. "We'd never beaten him and never come close to beating him, and I think we had like 12 hits off him tonight and scored four runs so it was a big night for us against him. He's a tough pitcher."
The Royals scored again against Thielbar in the seventh, when Billy Butler and Gordon laced back-to-back doubles.
Relievers Louis Coleman, Tim Collins, Aaron Crow, Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland combined to throw 5 1/3 scoreless innings to preserve the win for the Royals, who took the three-game series and improved to 12-4 on the year against the Twins. The five relievers combined for nine strikeouts, including two from Holland, who picked up his 30th save.
"The bullpen came in and did a great job," Gardenhire said. "We didn't do too awful much offensively."