Twins lose fourth straight

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- J.P. Howell had a no-hitter going when he was pulled. The rookie lobbied to stay in, but even he knew his case was weak.

Howell threw 97 pitches in five hitless innings before being relieved and Angel Berroa homered to lead the Kansas City Royals

over Minnesota 5-0 on Monday night, handing the Twins their fourth straight loss.

"It was definitely a quick plea," said Howell, laughing about his conversation with manager Buddy Bell. "I argued for about two seconds and then he told me to sit down.

"He's scary, man," Howell added. "He said, 'If you didn't throw 70 pitches in the first three innings I'd let you go out.'"

Howell (3-5) struck out seven, walked three and hit a batter with a pitch before he was relieved by Andrew Sisco to start the sixth. Sisco promptly gave up a single to Brent Abernathy leading off, followed by Joe Mauer's single.

"We have a really strict pitch count for these younger kids," Bell said.

Asked if he had ever pulled a pitcher with a no-hitter, Bell quickly answered, "No. And I don't want to again, either."

Sisco, Ambiorix Burgos and Jeremy Affeldt completed the three-hitter for the Royals, who won for the sixth time in nine games and snapped a five-game road losing streak. Two of their four shutouts this season have come against Minnesota.

The Twins were blanked for the 10th time and fell to .500 for the first time since they were 3-3 on April 10. They have been shut out six times since the All-Star break and have scored a total of three runs in their last four games.

"Disappointing ballgame for us," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I really don't know what to say about it, to tell you the truth.

"I think we only hit one or two hard, and then the big lefty Sisco came in and that was that," he said.

Scott Baker (2-3) allowed five runs and six hits in five innings. He walked two and struck out three.

"If you're consistently high, eventually you are going to get burned," Baker said. "That's what happened."

Berroa led off the third with a home run, his 11th, to give Kansas City the lead. The Royals added three more runs in the fourth.

Mike Sweeney and Matt Stairs started the inning with consecutive singles. After Emil Brown struck out, Mark Teahen singled up the middle to make it 2-0. Berroa then popped out before John Buck hit

a two-run double down the right field line to make it 4-0.

Stairs hit a sacrifice fly in the fifth to make it 5-0.

The Twins loaded the bases in the third without getting a hit, before Howell got Mauer to ground out and end the threat.

"He's a cross between Tom Seaver and Jeff Spicoli," Sweeney said of the 22-year-old Howell, citing the famous slacker from the movie "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."

"If we can get this guy's brain to work with his body, he'll be special for a long time," he said.Game notes
Howell has won two straight decisions for the first time in his career. ... The Royals are 10-1 when Berroa homers. ... Sweeney was back in the lineup as the designated hitter after missing four games because of lower back pain. He was 2-for-3 and is hitting .514 (19-for-37) this season against the Twins. ... The last time the Twins were shut out 10 times in a season was 1999. ... Minnesota grounded into two more double plays to extend its streak to 17 straight games with a double play and increase its season total to a major league-high 152.