The Twins’ Saturday started out rather peaceful and serene, on a sun-splashed, 78-degree afternoon in Kansas City.
Then, in the fourth frame, the visitors quickly grew uncomfortable.
Minnesota’s Chris Colabello, Trevor Plouffe and Josmil Pinto all committed defensive miscues, leading to a five-run inning for the host Royals. The Twins could never quite recover, in an eventual 5-4 loss.
"You know, that’s a game we definitely feel we should’ve won," said Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire. "If we make the plays we’re supposed to make, we win that ballgame."
Saturday — which marked Joe Mauer’s 31st birthday — started out so promising for Minnesota. But, in the end, the Twins (8-9) were unable to overcome the heat applied by Kansas City.
"Unfortunately, we had one bad inning today," Gardenhire noted, "and it ended up costing us the ballgame."
The Royals (9-7), winners of five straight contests, indeed broke loose at mid-game, following a sluggish start.
Minnesota had seized early momentum, when Kurt Suzuki golfed a solo home run to left field in the top of the fourth inning. The veteran’s first home run in a Twins uniform handed his club a 2-0 lead.
But the home half of the fourth was downright unsightly.
Minnesota’s fourth-inning gaffes were numerous (despite the fact it was officially only saddled with one error in the inning): First, Colabello badly misplayed a fly ball to right field. . . . Soon after, Kansas City’s poorest hitter to date in 2014, Justin Maxwell, made amends for his 0-for-11 start to the year with an RBI single through the middle. . . . Then, Nori Aoki slapped a ball down the third-base line that Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe scarcely reacted to, perhaps due to the afternoon’s intense sunlight. . . . And, finally, young backstop Josmil Pinto airmailed a throw to third base on an Aoki steal attempt.
When the dust settled, Minnesota had gift-wrapped a 5-run inning for Kansas City.
"Unfortunately, we misplayed a ball out in right — kind of went over our head," Gardenhire recalled afterward. "And we didn’t see one down the third-base line — I don’t think Plouffey ever saw that ball. And then we threw one away on a steal (attempt). . . . And that’s the ballgame. Five runs."
"The sun’s usually tough during day games here," noted Royals closer Greg Holland, after recording his sixth save of the year. "That’s something that’s kind of a homefield advantage, I guess."
Minnesota tallied two runs in the fifth but was largely silent from there on out, due in large part to its 1-for-8 showing with runners in scoring position. Other than Suzuki’s 2-for-4, 3-RBI afternoon, the visitors’ attack was muted. Kansas City, conversely, saw four of its players produce multihit games, led by Alex Gordon’s 3-for-4 effort.
"We had our chances to put more runs on the board," noted Gardenhire, whose team rarely capitalized against soft-throwing, 36-year-old Kansas City starter Bruce Chen.
Meanwhile, Twins starter Kevin Correia battled, working out of trouble in the second, third and fifth innings. He lasted 6 innings all told, yielding 9 hits, 4 earned runs and 2 walks. It was an uneven performance for the veteran, but the Twins’ defense did him no favors, either.
At times, Saturday felt like a flashback to 2013, when the Twins endured a miserable, 4-15 mark against their division rivals from Missouri.
The visitors will hope for a sunnier afternoon on Sunday.
Minnesota and Kansas City conclude their series at 1:10 p.m. on Easter, when the Twins’ Phil Hughes (0-1, 7.20 ERA) will get the start opposite the Royals’ hard-throwing Yordano Ventura (1-0, 0.69 ERA).