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Royals waste plenty of chances in 8-5 loss to Minnesota

Pitching, offense, and defense not sharp in typical Royalsian way

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Kansas City Royals Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

With the Minnesota Twins coming into town in the midst of a four-game skid, the opportunity for a win seemed ripe for the Kansas City Royals. Fortunately for the down-on-their-luck Twins, these Royals hate seizing such opportunities.

For the first four innings both teams seemed entirely disinterested in capitalizing upon opportunities provided them by the opposing pitcher. Each team stranded six runners in the first four frames, with neither Lance Lynn nor Jakob Junis particularly deserving of not having allowed any runs in that time. The complete embrace of nihilistic apathy would have been breathtaking were there no need for there to be declared a winner at some point in time.

Abandoning apathy because such principled stands are for the young and naïve, both clubs broke through for a pair of runs in the fifth. Brian Dozier led the fifth off with a liner to center for a single, and two batters later, Royal-killer and alleged bad dude Miguel Sanó demolished a Junis heater in the heart of the strike zone, hanging dong to straightaway center, just out of the reach of a leaping Jon Jay at the wall.

In the home half of the fifth, Jon Jay led off with a double—the second of three times he doubled to lead off a frame for the Royals en route to a four-hit night—and Whit Merrifield followed with a walk to put two aboard for Mike Moustakas. Moustakas did that thing he was supposed to do and ripped a screaming liner to deep center, over the head of Byron Buxton, who was playing WAAAAAY in. Both Jay and Merrifield came around to score, knotting the game at two apiece.

The Twins wasted little time in getting back to scoring against Junis. In the top of the sixth, catcher Mitch Garver singled through the left side of the infield with one out. Mired in a serious slump, the mercurial Byron Buxton attempted to bunt his way on, but he barreled the ball straight to Hunter Dozier, who raced back to the bag at first and then tried for the 3-4 double play but buried the throw in the dirt on the tough play. With Garver landing safely at second, Brian Dozier stepped into the box and poked a Junis four-seamer into right, plating Garver, who read the ball perfectly off the bat and beat the throw from Jorge Soler by a comfortable stride.

The seventh inning was played, but nothing noteworthy happened, unless the advancement of time and the prospect of a game between two teams no one should be forced to watch ending sooner is a thing of note.

Getting to face Burch Smith for the second inning, the Twins got back to work in the eighth, loading the bases with two outs for Eddie Rosario. Rosario doubled in three runs, the third coming across because Alcides Escobar fell asleep on Brian Dozier who never stopped at third and trotted across the plate with the Royals shortstop holding the ball at the bag after the throw came in from Soler in right. When coupled with a flare to shallow left that Escobar lost in the light, got a glove on, but ultimately didn’t catch, this was not a banner night for the Royals’ sub-replacement-level iron man.

The Twins led 6-2.

Frankly it could have been worse. Facing one of the only offenses in the game that has been worse than the Royals, Jake Junis pitched pretty poorly. Sure, he struck out seven in his six innings of work, but the previously walk-averse Junis issued four free passes and hit Mitch Garver with a pitch. Combined with the seven hits he allowed (one that Sanó dong), he let a dozen Twins reach safely. Two baserunners an inning is a recipe for disaster. Only allowing three runs meant luck shined on Junis in a night where it probably shouldn’t have.

For the offense’s part, Kansas City should have done much more. They put plenty of runners on against Lance Lynn—who came into the game with an ERA of 6.34 and a FIP just a shade under 5.00 at 4.95—but they squandered those opportunities at every turn.

In the bottom of the eighth, the Royals put together a rally against southpaw reliever Zach Duke. After Hunter Dozier and Alex Gordon both flew out to put two outs on the board, Duke grazed Alcides Escobar with a pitch to put a Royal on, and with two down Ramón Torres did what he hadn’t done all night, namely reach safely with a runner on board as he’d stranded five at that point. With Escobar and Torres at first and second following Torres’s single, Jon Jay bunt singled his way on and then watched as Zach Duke blew the throw to first, allowing Escobar to score the third Royal run of the night.

With the Royals having narrowed the deficit to 6-3 and Duke showing no signs of being able to notch that third out, Paul Molitor fingered closer Fernando Rodney to try to convert the four-out save. Whit Merrifield grounded a single past Miguel Sanó on a tough hop, pushing Torres across home. With Merrifield and Jay still aboard for Mike Moustakas, the pump was primed for a big moment. Unfortunately, Moustakas watched as what he thought was ball four cut back across the black for a called third strike.

The Royals trailed 6-4 when Ned Yost decided to wave the white flag and put in future (and it would be fair to say he should probably be doing this right now) bus driver Blaine Boyer. Boyer served up two more runs. Details don’t matter. So long as this man occupies a roster spot, this is what he will do when given the opportunity. 8-4, Twins.

41-year-old Fernando Rodney got the last three outs he needed to get that save, but he served up a tasty Soler dong along the way, but a four-run lead is enough for even Fernando Rodney. The Soler dong ran the score to 8-5, Twins.

The loss dropped the Royals to 18-36. The Twins stayed even with the Tigers, 3.5 games back of Cleveland.