Royals still can’t solve Slowey in 7-1 loss to Twins

MINNEAPOLIS | This makes three looks now for the Royals this season at Minnesota’s aptly named Kevin Slowey.

They still don’t have a clue.

Slowey turned in seven more comfortable innings Wednesday night as the Twins rolled to a 7-1 victory at the Metrodome. Made it look easy, too, with his precise off-speed repertoire.

“He’s like all of their guys,” Royals DH José Guillen said. “He just throws strikes. They just come at you, moving stuff back and forth. They don’t walk anybody.

“It’s amazing. You can be ahead 2-0 (in the count), and they say, `Hit it.’ But they hit their spots. It works for them.”

The Twins made everything look easy in this one. Much like Tuesday’s 7-2 victory in the series opener. It’s been that way throughout in building an 11-3 edge in the season series.

Royals starter Kyle Davies gave up four runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings. It was a typical Twins’ attack. Not a lot of noise but spiced with exceptional situational hitting — and maybe a little luck.

“They found their holes,” Davies said. “I didn’t pitch very well the first three innings. I didn’t have very good location. But the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, I pitched as well as I’ve pitched all year.”

Minnesota knocked out Davies, 6-7, in the sixth on a bloop RBI single by Nick Punto that was perfectly looped between left fielder Esteban German and shortstop Mike Aviles.

“They had some fortunate swings and some well-placed balls,” manager Trey Hillman said, “but Kyle kept us in the ballgame.”

The game slipped away in a three-run seventh inning. Two runs scored when Leo Nuñez threw a sacrifice bunt into right field, although the play was scored a single, not a sacrifice.

Maybe so. Alexi Casilla is fast, but his clear intent was to advance the runners. Whatever. He wound up on third before scoring on Jason Kubel’s two-out RBI single against Jimmy Gobble.

It was over much earlier, of course.

Slowey improved to 12-9 overall, which means he’s a .500 pitcher when not facing the Royals. Further, his 3.63 ERA jumps to 4.04 when removing his work against the Royals: three earned runs in 21 2/3 innings.

“With a guy who commands the ball on both sides of the plate,” Hillman said, “we’ve got to try to eliminate one side of the plate. I didn’t think our approach was that bad. We hit a couple of balls hard.”

Not many though. Not when it mattered. The Royals squandered leadoff doubles in the second and fifth innings.

Minnesota remained one game behind first-place Chicago in the American League Central Division. Both teams have 17 games remaining. The Royals lost for the fourth time in five games and fell to 61-83.

The Twins produced just one extra-base hit in a 12-hit attack, but they seemed to be buzzing all night with threats. Casilla and Kubel each had three hits. Kubel also had two RBIs.

Minnesota’s two big guns, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, were a combined one for eight — and it just didn’t matter.

Boof Bonser and Craig Breslow closed out the Twins’ victory.

The Royals opened the game with singles by Mike Aviles and Alberto Callaspo, which put runners at first and third. Slowey limited the damage to one run — a sacrifice fly by David DeJesus before Guillen grounded into a double play.

It was downhill from there.

Mark Teahen opened the second with a gift double when left fielder Delmon Young appeared to lose the ball, which sailed over his head.

It came to nothing. Teahen went to third on Ross Gload’s grounder to second but had to hold when John Buck hit a routine hopper to third. Esteban German ended the threat with a fly to center.

The Twins pulled even in the second on Carlos Gomez’s two-out RBI single. Davies avoided further trouble by striking out Denard Span with runners at second and third.

It was a brief respite.

Casilla opened the Minnesota third with a single and broke for second on a 3-1 fastball to Mauer. That pulled Aviles away from his usual position at short, which is where Mauer punched a grounder.

Aviles retreated in time to glove the ball, but his throw to first was late. Morneau popped to second, but Kubel rocked an RBI double that hopped the wall in left-center field.

Young’s grounder to short with the infield back scored Mauer for a 3-1 lead.

The Royals wasted another leadoff double in the fifth when Gload lined a ball off Morneau’s glove at first. Buck struck out before Slowey retired German and Jason Smith on grounders.

“If you don’t play the ABCs of baseball,” Hillman said, “and execute when you have a runner on third with less than two outs or a runner on second with nobody outwe stung ourselves.

“If we execute better, it’s at least a tie ballgame going into the middle innings.”

But they didn’t. And it wasn’t.

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