MINNEAPOLIS -- Still drained emotionally from an intense three-game sweep of Chicago that put Minnesota back on top in the AL Central, the Twins were in desperate need of a pick-me-up from Francisco Liriano on Friday night.
What they got instead, in the words of Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, was "a clunker."
A night after the Twins erased a five-run deficit against the White Sox to reclaim first place, Liriano gave up six runs on 11 hits in 4 1/3 innings of an 8-1 loss to the surging Kansas City Royals.
"That's the one thing we thought we had going. After a big series like we just had, you've got him going," Gardenhire said. "You would expect Frankie to get you deep into the ball game. That's what he's pretty much done all year long."
Instead, Liriano was knocked out by a two-run homer from Billy Butler in the fifth, and the Twins missed a chance to widen their lead on the White Sox in the division. They remain a half-game up on Chicago after the Sox lost to Cleveland, 11-8.
Kyle Davies (9-7) allowed one run and four hits in six innings and tied a career high with eight strikeouts, helping the Royals win for the 12th time in 14 games. They've won seven straight on the road.
Butler had three hits and two RBI and Mike Aviles added a double and a homer for the Royals, who are looking to crash another party in the final series of a season.
Two years ago, the Tigers needed to win just one game at home against the Royals to sew up the division. But Kansas City swept Detroit, allowing the Twins to jump into the top spot.
"We know what's on the line for them," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "We came here with the attitude that we're going to win as many games as we can. Certainly no time to lay down."
The Twins were coming off a thrilling 10-inning win over the White Sox in front of more than 43,000 fans Thursday night. Alexi Casilla's winning single blew the roof of the Metrodome and capped a sweep that vaulted the Twins back into first place and, apparently, sapped all their mojo in the process.
"We just came off of three emotional wins," right fielder Denard Span said. "Kansas City just came out and swung the bats a lot better than we did today. ... From the beginning, we knew they weren't going to lay down for us."
Gardenhire was hoping his dynamic young lefty would give the Twins the lift they needed to avoid a letdown, but it was all downhill for Liriano (6-4) after a 1-2-3 first inning.
He wiggled out of a bases loaded jam in the second, but came undone in Kansas City's four-run third, throwing two wild pitches and giving up four straight hits to start the frame.
After his first wild pitch bounced in the dirt and got past catcher Joe Mauer to allow runners to move up to second and third, Ryan Shealy's base hit scored Alberto Callaspo and Jose Guillen. Alex Gordon added an RBI double to give the Royals a 4-0 lead.
Liriano's disastrous night ended when he gave up the two-run homer to Butler in the fifth, giving the Royals a 6-0 lead.
"It was one of those days where no matter what I threw, it doesn't work," Liriano said.
Mauer had two hits and Span had a triple and a run scored for the Twins, but Justin Morneau went 0-for-4 and has just five hits in his last 30 at-bats.
Raucous in victory on Thursday night, the only time the Metrodome crowd got off its hands on Friday was when the scoreboard updated with Cleveland's Ryan Garko hitting a grand slam to give the Indians a 9-4 lead on the White Sox.
"You try not to take any opponent lightly," Span said. "But we just didn't come ready to play today. They came in and played us well and we just have to come back ready tomorrow. That's the only thing I can think of."
- Callaspo's single in the third inning extended his hitting streak to 17 games, a season-high for the Royals.
- Twins 3B Brian Buscher was replaced in the field by Brendan Harris to start the fifth inning after complaining of dizziness.
- CF Carlos Gomez fouled a ball off his foot and later came up limping while running out a grounder in the seventh. He stayed in the game.