MINNEAPOLIS — What the Royals needed was for the rest of their relief corps to start pitching like John Parrish. Not the other way around.
Parrish caught the bullpen virus Saturday afternoon when he surrendered a tie-breaking homer to Orlando Hudson in the seventh inning that sent the Royals to a 6-5 loss to the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.
Hudson's homer came after Gil Meche steadied after a five-run second inning, after the Royals got two homers from Rick Ankiel, after they rallied from a three-run deficit... and after Parrish had not allowed a run in his previous six appearances.
"It was going to happen sometime," Parrish said, "but it's unfortunate it had to be in a tie ballgame where I needed to get three outs."
Right-handed hitters were a combined 0 for 8 this season against Parrish before Hudson pulled a 1-0 fastball over the left-field wall for a leadoff homer. Hudson sprinted around the bases to the roar of a sellout crowd of 38,564.
"I was throwing a cutter in," Parrish said, "and he turned on it. It was inside, but it needed to cut a little bit more. I've got to make a better pitch there. I was trying to get ahead and get him to roll over on a cutter."
Parrish pitched around further trouble — a single and a walk put runners at first and second with no outs — but the damage was sufficient. The Royals failed to answer in their final two at-bats against Matt Guerrier and Jon Rauch in falling to 4-7.
Brian Duensing got the victory with two scoreless innings in relief of Nick Blackburn, who allowed five runs and seven hits in five innings.
Rauch got his sixth save as the replacement closer for injured Joe Nathan, although it didn't come easily. The Royals had runners at first and third in the ninth when David DeJesus took a third strike for the final out.
Parrish took the loss in what served as the latest stumble for a bullpen that has permitted 30 runs in 33 1/3 innings.
Ankiel's homers were both no-doubters: A two-run drive to right in the second inning and a bases-empty bomb in the fourth. Unfortunately, the Twins scored five times between those two swings.
Meche contributed two costly walks to Minnesota's five-run second inning. Longtime Royals tormentor Jim Thome, who turns 40 later this season, ignited the burst with a two-run homer.
But Meche refocused thereafter and pitched through the sixth inning without further damage. Parrish took over to start the seventh.
"I was just trying to clear my head," Meche said. "I just told myself, 'Look, it's going to be another three- or four-inning game unless I get this right and get my head straight.' Fortunately, the next four innings worked out that way."
Ankiel's first homer, a jolt to right in the second inning, followed Jose Guillen's leadoff double and staked Meche to a 2-0 lead that lasted only until Thome's first at-bat.
Thome followed Michael Cuddyer's one-out single in the second inning with a towering 418-foot homer to center. It was his 44th career homer against the Royals - the most by any opponent in franchise history.
"You leave pitches out and over the plate," Royals manager Trey Hillman said, "he's going to get you. You've got to tilt him. You've got to keep him off-balance. He's still pretty good."
The Twins were just getting started.
J.J. Hardy punched a two-out double into the right-center gap. Meche then walked Brendan Harris before Denard Span pulled an RBI single off the glove of first baseman Billy Butler.
"That's a play I think I should make," Butler said. "It just hopped out of my glove. It's a play I want to make every time. It's not routine, but I work on it to make it routine."
It was the difference between in a two-run inning and a five-run inning because Meche followed Span's single with a walk to Hudson. That loaded the bases for Joe Mauer, who pulled a two-run single into right field for a 5-2 lead.
"Shoot, we saw what Parrish did to right-handed hitters in Detroit," Hillman said. "We had it lined up pretty good (after) Gil gave us six. He just left a pitch out over the plate."