MINNEAPOLIS -- It hasn't been a pretty first half for Ricky Nolasco, and it got even rougher with perhaps his worst outing of the season coming Sunday afternoon.
Nolasco's season-long struggles continued as he gave up six runs in a season-low two innings to hand the Twins a 9-7 loss to the Yankees in the series finale at Target Field. It was a rough enough outing that Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said the Twins are debating whether a temporary move to the bullpen would help Nolasco.
Nolasco, who has been unable to find any consistency this season, surrendered six runs on seven hits and a walk to drop to 5-7 with a 5.90 ERA in 18 starts. After joining the Twins on a four-year, $49 million deal in the offseason, Nolasco has just six quality starts on the season -- and only two over his last 10 outings.
"He really had nothing," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They hit everything he threw out there. We gotta go better than that. He did nothing for us today and didn't give us a chance. To our credit, the guys kept playing and got within a couple runs at the end and had the chance to tie the game with a homer, but starting pitching sets the tone."
It's been such a rough first half for Nolasco that Gardenhire added that the Twins could opt to move the veteran to long relief to try to help him get out of his funk. Minnesota did a similar move with Francisco Liriano in 2012.
"We're discussing a lot of options and trying to figure it out," Gardenhire said. "It starts with him. He's got to do a better job. The bottom line is he has to figure out something because today wasn't any good, at all."
The Yankees jumped all over Nolasco from the start, scoring two runs in the first inning, with Mark Teixeira providing an RBI single before Brian McCann doubled home a run on a play that saw Teixeira get cut down at the plate trying to score from first.
New York scored four more runs in the second. Derek Jeter brought home the first run on a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded and one out. Jacoby Ellsbury followed with a three-run blast to put the Twins in an early six-run hole.
"It was just a bad day," Nolasco said. "Nothing was really working. It's going to happen. It's the big leagues. You just have to move on and be ready in five days."
The Yankees made it a nine-run game with three runs in the fourth against long reliever Anthony Swarzak that included Swarzak balking home the final run of the inning.
The Twins cut into the lead with four runs in the fourth against right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, who benefited from the big lead and got his sixth win of the year despite giving up four runs on seven hits and two walks over 5 2/3 innings.
"He had the one inning that was a little bit shaky," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said about Kuroda. "He had two outs with nobody on, and then gave up the three runs, but overall, he was pretty good today."
Oswaldo Arcia started the comeback bid with an RBI single but was thrown out at second trying to advance on a throwing error from Kuroda. Kurt Suzuki and Trevor Plouffe laced back-to-back doubles to add another run before Chris Colabello connected on a two-run blast to left field. It was the sixth homer of the year for Colabello and his second this series.
"It's always tough to play from behind, but we battled," Colabello said. "That's all you can really ask for really when you get behind."
The Twins scored in the seventh against reliever Adam Warren on an RBI groundout from Chris Parmelee and again in the eighth on a solo shot from Plouffe off reliever Jim Miller. Then in the ninth against closer David Robertson, Arcia hit an RBI single to make it a 9-7 game before Suzuki grounded into a game-ending forceout representing the winning run.
Despite the rally, Nolasco's early struggles were simply too much to overcome.
The defeat handed the Twins the series loss as they dropped three out of four to the Yankees and have now lost 10 of their last 13 games.
"We put up seven runs on the board and that's enough to win a baseball game," Gardenhire said. "We had some guys swing pretty decent. Colabello has been doing fine and Trevor put one in the seats. But you can't keep getting behind like that. It's about the starting pitching."