That's not to say, however, that they didn't try to climb out of it. Minnesota scored eight runs over the final three innings but still fell, 12-9, to Detroit in the second game of the weekend series.
Detroit built most of its lead, which reached 11-1 at one point, in the third inning. Its first five batters all reached off Twins starter Samuel Deduno, eventually leading to seven runs in the frame.
"Nothing good happened today," Deduno said after picking up his fifth loss. His ERA rose to 5.34 and is 11.81 in his three June starts.
Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez mystified the Twins with his hard slider and a two-seam fastball that breaks in on Minnesota's lefties.
"He's tough," Gardenhire said of Sanchez, who threw 6 1/3 innings of four-hit, three-run ball. "He just knows how to pitch. We knew that going in it was going to be hard on us."
Sanchez also racked up six strikeouts.
Gardenhire lamented before Saturday's game that it was impossible to determine which version of Deduno would show up for any given start.
Deduno hasn't pitched deep into games since rejoining the rotation last month, and it was clear in the third that he wouldn't last long Saturday, either. For the first two innings, Deduno was strong, pitching out of trouble in the first. But, as Gardenhire shrewdly noted before the game, Deduno's early performance is hardly an indicator of how the entire day will go.
"He got himself in trouble," Gardenhire said of his starter. "Definitely wasn't very good. He was unlucky, and it wasn't very good, either."
Deduno exited after just 2 2/3 innings, hanging his head. He fell victim to a Detroit lineup that hadn't scored more than three runs in an inning in almost a month. Deduno allowed seven hits, two of them homers, and seven runs.
Deduno hadn't allowed seven runs in a start since Sept. 22, 2012, in an 8-0 loss to the Tigers at Comerica Park. Minnesota pitching gave up 19 hits, the most it has allowed in any game this season.
The Twins' lead, which they took on Trevor Plouffe's sacrifice fly in the second inning, fell apart in the third.
The Tigers' No. 9 batter, rookie Eugenio Suarez, led off the frame by crushing a Deduno fastball to left-center for a home run. Deduno then issued a walk to Ian Kinsler before Torii Hunter knocked his second double of the game.
After the walk to Kinsler, pitching coach Rick Anderson headed out to the mound to talk to his starter. Deduno said Anderson urged him to escape further damage with two quick grounders. Instead, the big inning continued.
A single from Miguel Cabrera scored Hunter, and then Victor Martinez swatted a two-run homer -- originally a double, but the call was changed after a review -- that barely cleared the right-field fence.
But Minnesota demonstrated scrappiness to claw back, much like the way the Twins have fought to stick around in the American League Central while the Tigers' lead has dwindled.
"We kept swinging," Gardenhire said. "They didn't pitch that pretty either after the starter came out. They gave us plenty of opportunities. We kept blooping some balls in and we got back in the game."
Minnesota pushed across three runs in the seventh, when it finally chased Sanchez from the game. In the eighth, four straight two-out singles helped the Twins tack on three more.
The Twins added two in the ninth, again with two outs, to cut the Detroit lead to three on a two-run homer by Brian Dozier.
"That's one thing about the Twins," said Hunter. "I grew up in that organization. I know they never give up. They're going to keep fighting, try to make a game out of it, and that's what they did today."
But Eric Fryer struck out to end the game, setting up the rubber match on Sunday.