You kind of know a game is over for the Kansas City Royals when Ryan O’Hearn comes in as a replacement. Tonight was one of those games, though it turned out he could have entered the game as a replacement in the third inning and it wouldn’t have made any different. The Minnesota Twins were firing on all cylinders in their defeat of the Royals 9-0, while the Royals looked every bit like a 70-loss team in the middle of August—with 15 of their 27 outs made via strikeout, no less.
It started with Sonny Gray, who was nothing short of masterful against the Royals. The 10-year veteran has turned in a solid career for the Oakland Athletics, New York Yankees, Cincinnati Reds, and now the Twins, and he was at his absolute best tonight. Gray was electric, whipping late-moving sinkers into the zone, tossing perfectly located four-seam fastballs, and uncorking hard sliders and curveballs at the helpless Royals hitters. Gray tossed six scoreless innings and struck out ten while doing so.
Gray elicited 16 swings and misses on his pitches on the evening and at least once on all four of his pitches. Of particular note was the second inning, in which after walking Vinnie Pasquantino, Gray struck out the side looking. In fact, Gray didn’t even give up a single until the fourth inning, a little blooper by Bobby Witt Jr. that found the outfield.
Gray finally encountered multiple baserunners in the seventh inning. Salvador Perez and Pasquantino singled to lead off the inning, but with two lefties coming up in the next three batters, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli summoned the left-handed Caleb Thielbar to get the job done. And get the job done he did—Thielbar coaxed a groundout from Michael Massey and struck out Michael A. Taylor and Nick Pratto to end the threat.
On the Royals’ pitching side, Zack Greinke did 2022 Zack Greinke things; that is to say, Greinke reliably ate up innings even though he’s not as sharp as he used to be. Greinke didn’t walk anybody against five strikeouts, but Twins hitters were not fooled and notched nine hits off the former Cy Young winner. Three came around to score, including a pair of unearned runs thanks to yet another Witt error, this time at third base.
After Greinke left, all hell broke loose. Wyatt Mills and Luke Weaver gave up three additional runs apiece, though Weaver’s were all unearned thanks to a Massey error. Regardless, they combined to give up 10 baserunners. That’s bad! The Royals had almost half that throughout the whole game. Pasquantino tried his damndest, but getting a pair of hits and a walk only works when the guys behind you do something. The fifth through eighth spots in the order didn’t get on base once and accrued nine strikeouts along the way.
It was a bad game where a much better team hammered the much worse team. That’s happened a lot recently; Kansas City has now lost four of its last five, all of which came against winning ball clubs. They go at it again versus the Twins tomorrow.