Kansas City Royals

Royals get to Jake Odorizzi but can’t hold lead in 5-4 loss to Twins

Whit Merrifield talks Royals offense against Jake Odorizzi

Kansas City Royals outfielder/infielder Whit Merrifield had four hits, including three against former Royal Jake Odorizzi in a 5-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins at Target Field on June 15, 2019.
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Kansas City Royals outfielder/infielder Whit Merrifield had four hits, including three against former Royal Jake Odorizzi in a 5-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins at Target Field on June 15, 2019.

The Royals scored as many runs against Twins starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi in six innings as he’d allowed in his previous five starts combined.

They matched a season-high for earned runs against the right-hander, who looks like a serious candidate to start the All-Star Game. They hit as many home runs off Odorizzi (10-2) as he’d allowed in all of May.

Yet they still came up short and dropped the second game of their three-game set with the Minnesota Twins, 5-4, in front of a sellout crowd of 39,267 on Joe Mauer Night at Target Field. Prior to game, the Twins retired the jersey No. 7 of the former AL MVP and St. Paul native who spent 15 seasons starring for his hometown team.

Jorge Soler and Whit Merrifield each clubbed home runs for the Royals, and Merrifield enjoyed a four-hit game. The Royals won their first series in more than a month before starting the current road trip, but now they’ll try to avoid a series sweep at the hands of the Twins on Sunday afternoon.

“Soler got us on the board early with maybe the hardest ball I’ve ever seen hit,” Merrifield said. “That was incredible. We had a couple other chances, but (Odorizzi’s) a good pitcher. He’s going to get out of some jams. (Lucas) Duda had a sac fly. We scratched across enough on him. We just didn’t quite get to their bullpen like we would’ve liked to.”

The Royals didn’t score after the fifth inning.

And the Royals’ run of consecutive quality starts ended at seven in a row after starting pitcher Glenn Sparkman (1-3) didn’t make it through the sixth. He walked the first batter of the sixth before making his exit. Sparkman allowed five runs, four earned, on five hits and three walks in 5.0 innings.

The first three runs Sparkman allowed scored via a pair of home runs by Marwin Gonzalez (two-run) and Max Kepler. The Twins began the day leading the American League in home runs (133 in 68 games).

Odorizzi, who spent the 2011 and 2012 seasons in the Royals organization, came into the start ranked among the AL leaders in ERA (first, 1.92), hits per nine innings (third, 5.89), opponents batting average (third, .186) and strikeouts per nine innings (ninth, 9.98).

Entering the night, opponents had batted a paltry .154 against Odorizzi’s four-seam fastball according to MLB.com Statcast data. Soler didn’t seem to care one megabyte about that data when he went to the plate ready to ambush a first-pitch fastball with two outs and a runner on in the first inning.

Soler, having been ejected for the first time in his career on Friday night, took out any lingering frustrations on the baseball as he crushed a high fastball from Odorizzi into the left field stands for a two-run home run.

The ball left the playing field in the blink of an eye and traveled an estimated 462 feet, and was Soler’s 18th home run of the season.

In the third inning, the Royals missed out on an opportunity to tack on runs against one of the most dominant pitchers in the AL this season. They loaded the bases with one out after singles by Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi followed by a Soler one-out walk. However, Duda and Cheslor Cuthbert hit back-to-back pop-outs to end the inning.

After the Twins pulled within a run at 2-1 on a Kepler solo homer in the bottom of the fourth, Merrifield blasted a solo home run to start the fifth. Merrifield, a former roommate of Odorizzi in the minors, restored the two-run lead with his eighth homer of the season. He had a hit in each of his first three at-bats.

The Royals added another run in the fifth to go up 4-1 after Mondesi walked, went first-to-third on a Soler single and scored on a Duda sacrifice fly.

“He pitches up in the zone consistently with a fastball that jumps, so it’s really hard to get on top of,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of Odorizzi. “Soler got on top of one for a homer. Whit got on top of one, but you just see it and it looks like you can get a handle on it and it’s foul back or pop up. He’s tough. He’s got that little extra jump on it.”

The Twins responded in the bottom half of the fifth with three runs to tie the score 4-4, including a two-run home run by Gonzalez. One of the runs was unearned due to a Cuthbert fielding error on a grounder at third base.

“I just started trying to be a little too fine instead of just going at guys like I was at the beginning,” Sparkman said of the fifth inning.

After Sparkman walked the leadoff batter in the sixth, reliever Scott Barlow came on and allowed the inherited runner to score on a C.J. Cron RBI double scorched over the head of left fielder Alex Gordon and off the wall. That double gave the Twins their first lead of the night, 5-4.

The Royals stranded a runner in scoring position in the eighth after they were the beneficiary of a two-base throwing error to start the inning. They couldn’t take advantage.

In the ninth, they stranded the tying run at second base and the go-ahead run on first. Gonzalez made a sliding catch to rob Billy Hamilton of a hit to start the inning. Merrifield singled and advanced on a Mondesi ground out. Gordon drew a two-out walk, but Soler flew out to center to end the game.

Twins 5, Royals 4

Kansas City

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Merrifield rf

5

2

4

1

0

0

.302

Mondesi ss

4

1

1

0

1

1

.277

Gordon lf

4

0

0

0

1

2

.266

Soler dh

4

1

2

2

1

1

.248

Duda 1b

3

0

0

1

0

0

.154

Cuthbert 3b

4

0

0

0

0

2

.286

Lopez 2b

4

0

1

0

0

2

.211

Maldonado c

4

0

0

0

0

0

.198

Hamilton cf

4

0

0

0

0

1

.223



Minnesota

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Kepler cf

3

1

1

1

1

0

.266

Polanco ss

4

0

1

1

0

1

.333

Cruz dh

4

0

0

0

0

3

.278

Rosario lf

3

1

0

0

1

0

.260

Garver c

4

1

1

0

0

0

.316

Gonzalez rf

4

1

2

2

0

0

.262

Cron 1b

4

0

1

1

0

0

.271

Adrianza 3b

2

1

0

0

1

0

.282

Schoop 2b

3

0

1

0

0

0

.249



Kansas City

200

020

000

4

8

1

Minnesota

000

131

00x

5

7

3

E—Cuthbert (3), Gonzalez (4), Cron (6), Adrianza (3). LOB—Kansas City 9, Minnesota 5. 2B—Polanco (21), Cron (15). HR—Soler (18), off Odorizzi; Merrifield (8), off Odorizzi; Kepler (17), off Sparkman; Gonzalez (9), off Sparkman. RBIs—Merrifield (32), Soler 2 (49), Duda (9), Kepler (44), Polanco (37), Gonzalez 2 (26), Cron (46). SF—Duda.

Runners left in scoring position—Kansas City 4 (Soler, Cuthbert 2, Maldonado); Minnesota 4 (Kepler 2, Cruz 2). RISP—Kansas City 0 for 7; Minnesota 2 for 5.

Runners moved up—Lopez, Mondesi. GIDP—Maldonado.

DP—Minnesota 1 (Adrianza, Schoop, Cron).

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Sparkman, L, 1-3

5

5

5

4

2

3

88

4.01

Barlow

1

2

0

0

1

0

12

5.35

Peralta

1

0

0

0

0

1

14

4.50

Boxberger

1

0

0

0

0

0

12

4.85

Minnesota

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Odorizzi, W, 10-2

6

7

4

4

2

7

92

2.24

May, H, 9

1

0

0

0

0

1

18

3.70

Harper, H, 5

1/3

0

0

0

0

0

4

1.93

Parker, H, 6

2/3

0

0

0

0

1

16

4.24

Rogers, S, 8-10

1

1

0

0

1

0

21

2.10

Sparkman pitched to 1 batter in the 6th.

Inherited runners-scored—Barlow 1-1, Harper 1-0.

Umpires—Home, Angel Hernandez; First, Vic Carapazza; Second, Jordan Baker; Third, Hunter Wendelstedt.

T—3:09. A—39,267 (38,649).

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.
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