If the Kansas City Royals were going to avoid a series sweep against the AL Central rival Minnesota Twins, they were going to have to find some offense. Instead they left town still looking for a needed scoring punch.
The Royals lost their third in a row to start their road trip, 4-0, to the Twins on Wednesday afternoon in front of an announced 23,543 in the finale of a three-game set at Target Field. They were shut out for the second consecutive game and the 15th time this season.
The Royals have not scored in 26 consecutive innings, dating back to Vinnie Pasquantino’s home run in the first inning of the series opener.
The Twins have now swept the Royals twice this season — the first was a three-game set on May 20-22. The three losses also dropped the Royals to 7-7 in their last 14 games after they’d come off a strong 7-4 homestand.
“We tried our best, that’s baseball. It’s kind of crazy,” Royals star Salvador Perez said. “Sometimes we don’t understand. We played good at home. Now, come here for a three-game series and we lost all three.
“What we can say is it’s part of the game. We just need to keep going. Forget about it after the game. Now, we’re heading to Tampa. We’ll try to do our best in Tampa the next four games.”
Perez (2 for 4) and Pasquantino (2 for 4) accounted for four of the six hits for the Royals (48-71).
Perez now has 54 multi-hit games against the Twins, the second-most among active players behind Miguel Cabrera.
Pasquantino extended the longest hitting streak of his career to nine games. He has now reached base safely at least twice in 22 games (out of 44 career games).
“We had a couple guys, Michael Massey, taking really good at-bats, and we didn’t get a lot from them,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “But you saw some guys putting together the kind of at-bats we needed. … They didn’t give us a lot of free bases with the walks. We had to earn our way on, and we just couldn’t get anything put together to put any kind of rally together.”
For the third consecutive day, the Royals put together a potentially-pivotal scoring opportunity late in the game and came away empty. Singles by Perez and Pasquantino put two men on with no outs in the seventh inning, trailing by four.
Left-handed hitting Nick Pratto pinch hit for righty Brent Rooker with Twins right-hander Jhoan Duran on the mound. But Pratto struck out swinging. Massey lined out to center field where Gilberto Celestino made a diving catch, then Michael A. Taylor struck out on a called third strike to end the inning..
Twins starting pitcher Tyler Mahle left the game in the middle of a third-inning at-bat against Royals rookie infielder Maikel Garcia. The Twins said Mahle left with “right shoulder fatigue.”
The Twins used five relievers out of their bullpen to hold the Royals to six hits in the final 6 2/3 innings.
“We had some chances,” Perez said. “We didn’t produce. I got a chance today. Guys on first and second with two outs (in the eighth inning). I hit a ground ball to third base. I’ve got to do my job, you know.”
Lynch kept game within reach
Royals starting pitcher Daniel Lynch (4-8) allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits, including one home run, and one walk in six innings. He also struck out two.
Lynch, who held the Los Angeles Dodgers scoreless for five innings in his previous start, admittedly didn’t have his best stuff.
But he took some pride in having the type of outing he did despite not having his “best” on Wednesday.
“I didn’t think it was my best stuff,” Lynch said. “I thought it was pretty lackluster stuff. But as I get older and continue to progress and improve, when my stuff is not good that’s what I want the outing to look like. Getting deeper into the game, save the bullpen and still give us a chance.”
The Twins jumped out to a 3-0 lead after the first two innings thanks to a first-inning two-run home run by Jose Miranda followed by a throwing error by second baseman Michael Massey in the second inning that allowed a runner to score all the way from first on a fielder’s choice.
Miranda’s homer came on a fastball up above the strike zone with two strikes, a location Lynch has had a lot of success with his fastball. Lynch described the homer as “a good piece of hitting.”
“Those guys have played really good defense, especially Massey has played awesome defense the entire time he’s been here,” Lynch said. “Nobody’s perfect. Those types of things happen. So many times they pick us up by making great plays. I think that’s the way we pick them up, by not letting those innings spiral. That’s what I tried to do, go out there and pick them up because they’re going to pick me up a lot more times than I have to do that.”
After the first-inning homer, Lynch gave up just one earned run in the next five innings. He said he felt like he needed to “turn it on” after coming out flat in the first inning, and he credited catcher MJ Melendez for calling a great game and making the adjustments during the game.
The Twins added a fourth run against Lynch in the fourth thanks to two-out RBI double by Nick Gordon RBI.
“I think he only gave up five or six hits on the day, and some that just got over the infield,” Matheny said. “He did a great job today of giving us length, being able to get through six when he didn’t feel like he had his best stuff.
“I’ll tell you the difference between today and some of the others was the fastball location, the ability to really establish the fastball. He pitched well, gave us a chance. We just couldn’t get anything going offensively. Mistakes also continue to hurt us. When we’re making defensive mistakes, they seem to capitalize.”