MINNEAPOLIS — A rotation that Angels Manager Mike Scioscia calls the "heartbeat of the club" is in desperate need of a defibrillator.
Jason Vargas delivered another stinker of a start Tuesday night, giving up five runs and nine hits in 3 1/3 innings of an 8-6 loss to the Minnesota Twins in Target Field.
That left the rotation with a major league-worst 6.07 earned-run average and the Angels with a 4-10 record, matching their 1961 start for worst in franchise history.
BOX SCORE: Minnesota 8, Angels 6
"If you don't control the game on the defensive side, you're never going to have enough offense to overcome that," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "Our offense can not only get leads but can break games open, and we haven't been able to do that. The occasional bad start or game you have to come back from is one thing, but we've had to come back in virtually every game."
Of the 21 batters Vargas faced in a glacially slow, 3-hour 30-minute game, 11 reached base. The left-hander needed 90 pitches to record 10 outs. He has given up 11 earned runs and 27 hits in 14 2/3 innings on the season for an 0-2 record and 6.75 ERA.
"I'm definitely not doing my job right now and getting us to the point in the game we need to be," Vargas said. "We need to get deeper in games and take some pressure off the bullpen and let our hitters have some breathing room so they don't feel like they have to come in and score a bunch of runs."
Vargas' clunker came on the heels of Joe Blanton's 4 2/3-inning, four-run, nine-hit effort in Monday night's 8-2 loss to the Twins, which dropped Blanton to 0-3 with an 8.59 ERA. Tommy Hanson (1-1, 6.55 ERA) will attempt to prevent a Minnesota sweep in Wednesday night's series finale, weather permitting.
So if you're scoring at home, the three starters General Manager Jerry Dipoto acquired through trades or free agency this winter — Blanton, Vargas and Hanson — are a combined 1-6 with a 7.36 ERA, allowing 67 hits in 40 1/3 innings.
"There's not one magic cure for all the guys who are struggling," Scioscia said. "Everyone has their own set of circumstances and they're going to have to make adjustments according to their own game."
Vargas was tagged for three runs in the second, which Joe Mauer capped with a two-run single, part of the Twins catcher's second straight four-hit game. The Angels countered with three in the third, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols driving in runs with singles, but Vargas couldn't deliver a shut-down inning.
Wilkin Ramirez's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the third gave Minnesota a 4-3 lead. Andrew Romine's RBI fielder's choice made it 4-4 in the top of the fourth, but Justin Morneau's RBI single in the bottom of the fourth made it 5-4 Twins.
Brian Dozier's two-out, two-run single off Jerome Williams in the fifth gave Minnesota a 7-4 lead, and Mauer's seventh-inning RBI single made it 8-4.
The Angels, who entered with a major league-worst .129 average with runners in scoring position, went four for 10 in those situations Tuesday night, and they trimmed the deficit to 8-6 on Trout's two-out, two-run double in the ninth.
Pujols followed with a hard grounder that caromed off third baseman Trevor Plouffe's arm and to shortstop Pedro Florimon, who threw to first in time to get Pujols and end the game.