The Royals and Minnesota Twins combined for 20 hits, including four home runs, a triple and four doubles, plus six walks, four stolen bases, three errors and a passed ball on Monday night.
But the Twins 10-7 win at Kauffman Stadium turned on the Royals early decision to bunt. And it backfired. Big time.
The Royals first five batters in the fourth inning reached base against Minnesota rookie starter Cole De Vries singles by Johnny Giavotella and Billy Butler and an RBI double by Mike Moustakas followed by two errors in the field by Twins infielders that allowed Kansas City to tie the game at 4-4.
So with runners at first and second and no outs against a wobbly De Vries who like Royals starter Will Smith was making just his third big-league start the Royals Alcides Escobar gave the Twins an out by laying down a sacrifice bunt, moving the runners to second and third for the eighth- and ninth-place hitters in the lineup.
Except Jarrod Dyson, the eighth-place hitter, looked at a third strike.
So did Humberto Quintero.
Given a reprieve, the Twins seized the momentum and responded by knocking out Smith in the fifth. Justin Morneau belted a two-run homer to right and Trevor Plouffe added a solo shot to left, making it 7-4, and the Royals, save a mild threat in the ninth, were barely a factor the rest of the night.
Royals manager Ned Yost defended his decision to have Escobar, a .298 hitter, bunt.
I was counting on one of the two guys, either Dyson putting the ball in play to give us the lead with the infield playing back, or Q getting a big two-out hit, Yost said. Neither one of those things happened. But it was the right play it was the right time at that time. We had battled back and tied the score.
I was trying to get us ahead at that point. I felt if we could take the lead into the fifth inning, wed be in pretty good shape. It put us in a perfect position to take the lead or maybe even a two-run lead at that time. We just didnt get the job done.
The teams traded runs in the sixth, but De Vries, 1-1, who spent five seasons in the minor leagues, was rewarded with his first major-league win.
It feels awesome, De Vries said. It's something I've waiting for my whole life.
That (fourth) inning, we had a few errors. Those happen. No big deal. When something like that happens, someone has to pick it up. It has to be the pitcher or someone else on the team. I was happy that I was able to do that pick those two guys up and kind of minimize the damage.
Smith, making his first start at Kauffman Stadium, fell to 1-2 after surrendering seven runs, including three home runs, in 4 2/3 innings. And the Royals, in the midst of a home stand against two last-place teams, disappointed the crowd of 16,531 by falling to 2-2 in games against Oakland and Minnesota and to a major-league worst 7-19 at home.
It just didnt go the way I wanted to, said Smith, who has struggled in the first inning of all three of his starts. I made bad pitches, got hit hard like theyre supposed to, they hit them hard and hit them a long ways. Ive got to make better pitches
Smith felt revived after the Royals tied it in the fourth, but walked Josh Willingham who had homered in the first before Morneau belted one 390 feet to right.
When the offense gives you runs, youre supposed to go out there and give them a zero to help the momentum, Smith said, but I just didnt do that. I gave it right back to them.
Moustakas was the lone bright spot for the Royals, drilling his ninth home run of the season in the second inning and adding two doubles.
But after Escobars ill-fated bunt, little went well for the deflated Royals, who mounted a mild threat in the bottom of the ninth, scoring two runs and forcing the Twins to bring in closer Matt Capps in a save situation. Capps picked up his 13th save by getting Giavotella on a soft ground ball with a runner on and Billy Butler on deck.
The Twins, playing without injured star catcher Joe Mauer, wasted little time getting to Smith. With one out in the first, Ben Revere reached on an infield hit by beating Giavotellas throw from behind the second-base bag, and Willingham smacked his 11th home run of the season 388 feet into the left-field seats above the Kansas City bullpen for a 2-0 lead.
We think our guys can hit, said Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire, whose team, 21-33, has won three straight and six of seven. This is without Mauer, too, who has been swinging really well. We put a couple in the seats. Willingham gets us off to a good start. Then Morneau gets one later. Those are the two guys who are supposed to drive in runs. We've always said if our pitchers give us an opportunity, we can play some baseball. If you watch our scores, when we have an opportunity, we're pretty good.