I guess the old saying is “quitters never win; winners never quit,” and its attributed to legendary Green Bay Packers head coach Vince Lombardi.
And while the Minnesota Twins didn’t win on Wednesday night, they also didn’t quit. Despite the fact that Fernando Romero dug the team an early and deep hole, the Twins battled back to within a run before ultimately falling 11-8 to the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on “Bark in the Park” night.
The loss gave the Twins a 2-1 defeat in the series, and dropped them seven games under .500 for the third time this season.
Here’s what we saw from our vantage point
Romero just didn’t have it
Manager Paul Molitor said as much in his postgame remarks, too.
“(Romero) didn’t have it,” Molitor said. “It’s kind of the perils of inexperienced starters. He’s mostly been good. Tonight was a hiccup for him. It’s always a bit concerning when you walk the first hitter on four pitches. I think it took 20-plus pitches to get his first out. We were in a spot where we had to try to give him a chance to get on track. It just wasn’t happening there in the second. Unfortunately, they put up a touchdown.”
According to the postgame notes, Romero was the first Twins pitcher to allow eight earned runs in 1.2 innings or less since Vance Worley allowed nine in an inning-plus against the Mets on April 12, 2013.
While Romero has battled command issues before, it wasn’t about missing the strike zone, but where he was missing in the zone, Molitor said.
“Tonight, he wasn’t misfiring as far as out of the strike zone,” Molitor noted. “He was leaving balls up. Whether it was the fastball or the slider, he was just having trouble getting it down into good locations. I don’t know how many of their hits were with two strikes, but it seemed like the majority of them early in the game, he’d get to a point where he’d have a chance to make a pitch, and they’d capitalize on the mistake.”
“I don’t think it was a mechanical thing,” Romero said. “I think it was just missing the spots a little bit. Especially at this level, when you miss they make you pay. We’ll get it going.”
After Jon Jay led off the game with a four-pitch walk, Romero gave up two-strike hits to Tuesday’s hero Alcides Escobar, Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez before rallying to get a grounder from Jorge Soler and a looking strikeout from Hunter Dozier.
The final damage after one inning was two runs with a pair stranded on the corners.
The second was more of the same, as Ryan Goins led off with a two-strike single. Moustakas followed with a moon-shot homer near the foul pole in the right-field corner — also with two strikes — to make the score 5-0. Then the Royals went into ambush mode, as Perez hit a 1-0 pitch up the middle for a single, and
Soler followed by hitting the first pitch off the top of the fence. It was initially ruled a home run, but was dialed back to a double after review.
The review was rendered moot three pitches later, as Alex Gordon got into the fun with an RBI single up the box to make it 7-0.
That was the end of the day for Romero, though a Goins triple brought Gordon home — and Hunter Dozier, for that matter — to close the book on the young righty:
1.2 innings, 8 earned runs, 9 hits, 1 strikeout, 1 walk
His ERA jumped from 1.88 to 4.15 in the process. The points about stuff are not unwarranted, however. Romero touched 97 mph with both of his fastballs, and had three swinging strikes on 14 sliders.
It just goes to show the narrow difference between failure and success at this level — especially for a youngster.
Ned Yost mixed and matched to….varying degrees of effectiveness
The Royals had to get a little creative after using up the pitchers in Tuesday night’s marathon game that they’d planned to piggyback after starter Brad Keller in his first MLB startal on Wednesday.
To help cushion the blow, the Royals placed former Twins reliever Blaine Boyer on the disabled list and called up Trevor Oaks, who was the first reliever out of the gate after Keller went three innings.
Keller pitched fairly well, allowing just one earned run over three innings with three strikeouts. Then, he gave way to Oaks, who was less successful as he allowed five hits while recording as many outs, allowing three earned runs while giving up a homer to Brian Dozier in the fifth inning.
Burch Smith also came on and threw an inning, but gave up four earned runs thanks not only to two hits allowed but also two walks. Ehire Adrianza got to him for his first home run of the year in the sixth, narrowing the score to 9-5.
But after Smith departed, it was curtains for the Twins offense, as Brian Flynn, Kevin McCarthy, Tim Hill and closer Kelvin Herrera combined for 3.1 innings of scoreless relief with one hit allowed, four strikeouts and just one walk.
It came at a good time, too. The Twins closed the gap to 9-8 before Smith departed.
Aaron Slegers was an absolute godsend…
His numbers were basically reflective of a solid start — which he was scheduled to do for Rochester on Wednesday night before showing up at Kauffman Stadium earlier in the day — as he went 5.1 innings with three strikeouts, one walk, six hits and just two earned runs allowed.
So what was working for Slegers?
“Just the heater, moving the heater in and out, up and down,” he said. “The changeup was working well tonight. Essentially those two pitches.”
Slegers’ fastball won’t blow anyone away — Brooks Baseball had it as high as 92.8 mph on his four-seamer — but he mixed it effectively with the sinker, changeup and slider.
Five of his six swinging strikes came on fastballs, for what it’s worth.
The effort was not lost on his manager, who was extremely appreciative.
“I do want to tip my hat to Aaron,” Molitor said. “We were in dire straits there about how we were looking at getting through the game without him being able to extend himself the way he did. So he gave us every opportunity.”
…though that got him shipped out after the game
The harsh reality was that Slegers wasn’t going to be available again anytime soon after throwing 83 pitches, so sending him out for a fresh arm made too much sense.
A pitcher will meet the team in Minneapolis in time for Thursday’s game.
“They’re not pleasant and probably while he’s out there he knows it’s going to happen,” Molitor said about the conversation with Slegers to let him know he was being sent back. “But he’s as high-character as you can be. He was grateful he got a chance to come up here and pitch.”
Slegers said the same after the game.
“You’ve just got to control what you can control,” he said. I’m happy for the opportunity, that I got to come here and pitch. Any time I’m on a major league field, I’m blessed for the opportunity.”
The Twins offense kept chipping away all night, and nearly tied the game
After the seven-spot in the second, the Twins put up single tallies in the third and fourth before pushing across two in the fifth and four runs in the sixth.
The first run scored on a Miguel Sano single with two outs in the third. The fourth-inning run came on a two-out double from Adrianza. Dozier led off the fifth with a home run, but the second run came in on a two-out single from Eduardo Escobar. Three of the four runs in the sixth came with two outs as well as Sano rolled a ball just off the glove of Moustakas and into foul territory.
In other words, six of the team’s eight runs came with two outs. That feels like an encouraging sign for an offense desperate for them all road trip long.
“I loved our energy,” Dozier said. “We put together a good inning and bounced right back. We were up in the dugout. We were right where we wanted to be with the momentum shift. But we just couldn’t capitalize on it. It sucks. We lose two out of three. We get all that. But I’m an optimistic person and you can take away from some good things offensively from this game.”
Each side’s Dozier homered
Not only did Brian Dozier sock a homer, but the homer for Hunter Dozier was the first of his career. He hit it off Slegers to lead off the seventh inning — on the first pitch — and got a nice bath after the game from Perez and friends.
A weird dynamic played out on the scoreboard
For the first eight innings, runs were scored in each — but never by the same team in the same inning. Maybe it’s nothing significant, but it’s just something I noticed.
Jon Jay and Jorge Soler absolutely terrorized the Twins
Jay was a pest all series long, finishing 7-for-13 with a pair of walks, three doubles and three runs scored. Soler, on the other hand, had three extra-base hits — including a homer and double in Wednesday night’s game — and was 5-for-14 overall, including 4-for-5 in the final game of the series.
The Royals offense isn’t really built to last all season long, but in short bursts, just about anything can happen.
The Royals offense was solid top to bottom
Every player in the lineup for Kansas City had at least one hit, with five players tallying at least two knocks. Soler led the way with four hits, while Moustakas, Perez, Dozier and Goins had two apiece.
It was “Bark in the Park” night
In addition to the announced attendance of 21,343, the Royals announced that there were 421 pooches in the stands on Wednesday night.
What’s not to love about a mug like this one:
- The Twins fell to 22-29 on the season, and are 5-7-5 in series play this season.
- The Twins are 11-17 on the road this season.
- Rosario has hit safely in 23 of 27 games this month.
- Ehire Adrianza homered in the sixth, snapping a 51-game stretch since he last went deep.
- The Twins head home to start a four-game series with the Cleveland Indians on Thursday evening. Here are the probable pitching matchups: Shane Bieber vs. Jake Odorizzi on Thursday (7:10 p.m.), Carlos Carrasco vs. Jose Berrios on Friday (7:10 p.m.), Trevor Bauer vs. Lance Lynn on Saturday (3:10 p.m.) and Mike Clevinger vs. Kyle Gibson on Sunday (1:10 p.m.)