The Twins simply couldn't take advantage of their scoring opportunities, going 0-for-12 in those situations and leaving 10 runners on base. It's the eighth time they've been shut out this year, and they've now lost 12 of their last 13 games while hitting just .178 with runners in scoring position over that span.
"That's pretty much the bottom line: We had opportunities and put guys on, but we couldn't come up with any big hits," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It's kind of what our storyline has been."
Their recent woes were epitomized in the seventh, when Justin Morneau struck out to end the inning on what was ruled a check swing by third-base umpire Kerwin Danley with runners at second and third. Morneau uncharacteristically slammed down his helmet and bat in disgust and was told he'll be facing an equipment fine.
"I think it was just frustration boiling over from the road trip," said Morneau, who apologized for his actions. "It was just another at-bat leaving runners in scoring position, which is what we've been struggling with as a team. I think all those things came together, and I let it out. I think it was the first time I've ever thrown my helmet on the ground."
Left-hander Scott Diamond started and fared well until the game was delayed due to rain with one out in the fourth inning. He gave up just one hit over 3 1/3 scoreless innings, but he did walk three batters.
"Once [the delay] got past that hour mark, it's what kind of sold it," Diamond said. "I completely understand the decision, but as a competitor I wanted to be back out there."
Right-hander Ryan Pressly took over for Diamond once play resumed and was able to get through the fourth inning before giving up two runs in the fifth.
Luis Cruz started the Yanks' rally with a single on an 0-2 curveball to open the inning and scored on a one-out single to left field from Brett Gardner. Left-hander Brian Duensing came on in relief of Pressly and got Ichiro Suzuki to ground out, but he gave up an RBI single to Robinson Cano with two outs.
"We had a couple of bad pitches in the one inning where they scored some runs," Gardenhire said. "We had an 0-2 pitch, and then a pitch to Gardner he knocked through. Other than that the guys did a decent job, but unfortunately, we can't knock anybody in right now."
The Twins were helped defensively in the sixth by an outstanding throw from Aaron Hicks, who was able to get Vernon Wells at third base as he tried to stretch a double into a triple. Hicks picked up the ball at the warning track in center field and threw it all the way to third without a bounce to get Wells.
"I was just trying to hit the cutoff man, but the ball was a little wet, so when I threw it, it took off," Hicks said. "It just happened to be a throw that was a pretty good throw and got the guy out."
But Minnesota couldn't do much offensively against Yankees right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, who tossed five scoreless innings to pick up the win. He gave up six hits and walked two but was able to pitch out of several jams and came back out for the fifth despite the delay.
"He's a machine," Yankees closer Mariano Rivera said of Kuroda. "I'm glad I'm on his team. He has been there for us, he has given us a lot of great games."
The Twins wasted a prime opportunity to score in the seventh, when Pedro Florimon and Brian Dozier singled with nobody out. Chris Parmelee was then called on to drop down a sacrifice bunt for the first time in his career but ended up striking out against left-hander Boone Logan.
Both runners advanced on a wild pitch, but the Twins couldn't cash in, as Joe Mauer and Morneau both struck out to end the inning. They went down quietly in the eighth against David Robertson and again in the ninth against Rivera, who picked up his 30th save.
"This hasn't been a fun time," Morneau said. "We got off to a decent start there, but we've dug ourselves into a hole again the last couple of weeks."