Twins tripped up in 10th vs. Royals
Liriano dominant across eight innings, strikes out six
MINNEAPOLIS -- Coming off their recent disappointing 14-game road trip in which they won just five games, the Twins had a simple mission: To take advantage of the six games that awaited them at home before heading on the road for another long 10-game trip.The Twins possessed one of the best records in the Majors at home this season and they had played some of their best baseball at the Metrodome. But the Twins were not able to enjoy home-field advantage like they had hoped. An OK homestand turned into a very disappointing one on Thursday afternoon when Minnesota suffered a 10-inning, 3-2 loss to Kansas City in the series finale. In a game that had been tied at 2 since the third inning, it was the Royals who came up with the big hits late. Matt Guerrier gave up back-to-back one-out singles in the 10th -- a chopper up the middle and an end-of-the-bat blooper -- before left-hander Dennys Reyes came in, and on the first pitch he threw, gave up the game-winning RBI single to David DeJesus. The extra-inning loss prevented a series sweep of Kansas City and brought Minnesota's record over its six games at home to 3-3. That stretch included a series loss to the Tigers after the Twins dropped two of three contests, including a loss caused by another eighth-inning bullpen collapse. And after Thursday's loss, the Twins were left to lament what might have been in these games. "Today, we could have made it better," manager Ron Gardenhire said of the homestand. "It is what it is. You can't bring [those games] back, and today we just didn't score." This latest loss opened the possibility for the Twins to fall two games back of the White Sox in the American League Central race. Minnesota entered the day sitting just one game back of Chicago, but an inability to tally runs early in the game against Royals starter Brandon Duckworth proved costly. Duckworth allowed just two runs on seven hits over his five-plus innings. Four of those hits occurred in the first two innings, and while Minnesota scored both of its runs then, the Twins felt there could have been more.
After back-to-back singles by Mike Redmond and Brian Buscher started the second inning, Carlos Gomez delivered a single to right field that scored Redmond from third base. It put runners on first and third with just one out in the inning.But shortly after getting on base, Gomez got a little too far from first and got caught in a rundown after a pickoff play -- one that his manager believed might have turned the momentum in the game. "That's a big situation, first and third and one out," Gardenhire said. "And [that play] takes you right out of an inning. We had a chance to score runs there and get a lead for our starter. And if we do that, we'll be OK." The Twins also wasted other potential scoring opportunities off Duckworth, grounding into double plays in both the fifth and sixth innings. "Early in the game, we were going along good and it looked like we were going to be on him pretty good," Gardenhire said of the Royals right-hander. "Then he started using the big breaking curveball, and that kind of threw a little wrinkle in there. It looked like we had to figure out a way to adjust for that. He was throwing it over for strikes and it got us out of whack a little bit." The Twins' inability to score wasted what was another strong outing by starter Francisco Liriano. Like Duckworth, Liriano also looked a tad shaky early in his outing as he gave up two runs, but Liriano was able to make an adjustment and settle down in the third inning. Liriano gave up two RBI doubles, one to Esteban German in the second inning and one to Jose Guillen in the third. But after Guillen's double, Liriano retired 15 straight batters and did not give up another hit until DeJesus singled in the eighth. The southpaw's eight-inning outing, in which he scattered just six hits, was the longest for Liriano since July 28, 2006 vs. Detroit. While earning the no-decision, the left-hander did not issue a single walk and struck out six batters, in large part due to a strong command of his slider. "The beginning of the season, I was a little scared to throw it," Liriano said of the slider. "Now, I just feel really comfortable throwing it. I'm not thinking about getting hurt or anything like that." The Twins had one more chance to give Liriano a victory in the eighth. But after Joe Mauer led off the inning by reaching on a two-base fielding error by German in left field, Minnesota recorded three quick outs. And after that, the Twins didn't really give themselves many scoring opportunities off the rest of the Royals' bullpen, including closer Joakim Soria in the 10th inning. "It was a tough one today -- extra innings -- but you try to take a positive out of it," Mauer said. "We won a series and that's what we set out to do every series since Spring Training." With a 10-game road trip now awaiting the team, including the start of a three-game series at Baltimore on Friday night, Minnesota knows that it must find ways to avoid the same trouble it encountered on its last road trip. Although the record in this homestand wasn't what the Twins had hoped, they said they felt as if they played pretty decent baseball overall. So now the goal is to do the same on the road and make it, well, feel like home. "If we come out and play with the energy and confidence that we do at home, if we can bottle that up and do that for the next 10 days, we're going to be in good shape," Redmond said. "If you can't get excited and fired up for the situation we're in, to have a shot to make it to the playoffs, you are crazy. I think we'll be fine. Tomorrow will be big. We have to get off to a good start."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.