One pitch bites Hughes in improved effort

Righty allows big two-run homer, while Twins' recent offensive woes continue

One pitch bites Hughes in improved effort

MINNEAPOLIS -- After giving up nine runs in his past two starts, Twins right-hander Phil Hughes was looking for a bounce-back performance.

"I had nowhere to go but forward," Hughes said after Monday's 3-1 loss to the Royals. "A couple back-to-back pretty ugly starts against Boston and I was frustrated with myself and knew I needed to be better."

Monday was a bit better for Hughes, who gave up three runs in 7 2/3 innings, but it wasn't enough.

An upper-deck two-run home run to Kendrys Morales hurt Hughes. With Jason Vargas keeping the Twins off balance, the veteran righty's one mistake loomed large.

Morales' two-run homer

"He made a lot of good pitches," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "[Eric] Hosmer fought off the 0-2 pitch for a little single and then he got behind the big boy [Morales] over there. We have a lot of respect for him. He took advantage of a 3-1 count and that was the biggest hit of the game, obviously."

With the home run, Hughes has given up 13 in 12 starts. He's given up at least one in all but three games, and he's had four games in which he's given up two homers.

Last year, he gave up 16 in almost 210 innings. Historically, Hughes has been known to surrender the long ball, giving up 35 one season while with the Yankees.

On the Morales home run, Hughes said he was trying to make too good of a pitch early in the count and fell behind.

"I made too good of a pitch for him over the middle of the plate and he didn't miss it," Hughes said. "It was unfortunate because I felt like I was really able to execute some pitches tonight."

With a Twins team that has struggled with runners in scoring position in its past few games facing a lockdown Royals bullpen, that one mistake was enough.

"It's not a team you want to be behind [to] in the later innings," Hughes said. "It's too bad I was able to give up those early runs and not really give us a chance there."

Molitor pulled Hughes after he gave up a pair of two-out singles in the eighth. Hughes said the Mike Moustakas at-bat in which he collected a two-out hit to extend the inning was the most frustrating for the righty.

For the second straight day, a Twins starter pitched into the eighth, helping save a bullpen that had been taxed with a doubleheader and a bullpen game last week, and while Hughes didn't see the desired result, he said Monday's game was a step in the right direction.

"[I'm] still not where I want to be and not where I have to be if we want to continue down this path of winning baseball," he said.

Betsy Helfand is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.