Jorge Soler did not leave us in suspense. Batting second he took a 2-2 pitch in the first inning and belted it over the batter’s eye in centerfield. Then, just to ensure a surprise game from Mike Trout tomorrow couldn’t catch him, he deposited another in the seats in left-center. The first was a solo shot, the second was a two-run blast, and combined they accounted for all of the runs the Royals scored today as the Twins trotted out reliever after reliever.
The Twins sent eight pitchers to the mound, today. Only the opener, Cody Stashak, pitched more than one inning. Even though the first “reliever” out of the bullpen was Kyle Gibson, who has traditionally been a starter for the Twins. Surprisingly, the Twins hitters only managed one home run. Nelson Cruz hit a solo shot to give the Twins their final lead in the top of the eighth off of Jacob Barnes. Royals announcer Rex Hudler claims that Barnes has impressed Royals’ brass in his time here but he has an 8.25 ERA and has allowed four home runs in only thirteen innings pitched. It’s difficult for relievers to acquire WAR because of the small number of innings they traditionally pitch but Barnes has managed to “earn” -0.3 fWAR even before today’s game-losing effort.
Soler’s pair of home runs gave him 47 on the season which not only all but guarantees him the AL league lead but puts him only one behind Rafael Palmeiro for the most in a season by a Cuban-born player. He’ll be looking to hit two more, tomorrow. Whit Merrifield had three hits on the day after striking out in his first at-bat. That gives him 206 on the season and all but guarantees he will finish the season batting over .300 and leading the league in hits. Whit also stole his twentieth bag just to earn himself a nice round number, there.
The Twins won this entirely meaningless game but more importantly they lost one of their good young hitters to an injury when the infield failed to communicate while attempting to catch a popup. Luis Arraez didn’t start the year with the Twins but he still managed to accrue 2.2 fWAR in only 91 games before today’s action. He has walked more than he’s struck out and had an .847 OPS. It’s a shame for the Twins but they’ll have to hope they can overcome and finally take down the hated Yankees in the ALDS, next week.
The final game of the regular season will be played, tomorrow. Jorge López will take the start against the Twins’ Martín Pérez. Hopefully there will be no more injuries but a few more Whit Merrifield hits and Jorge Soler can drive a couple more out of the ballpark. It will be Ned Yost’s last game as the manager of the Kansas City Royals. It may be Alex Gordon’s final game. Either way, there won’t be any more Royals baseball for the rest of the year. Enjoy it while you can.