Chen stumbles early, Royals routed 10-1 by Twins

Bruce Chen struggled with command from the outset and lasted only 3 2/3 innings Friday night in Minnesota.  

Jesse Johnson/Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — Bruce Chen couldn’t keep the Kansas City Royals’ string of quality starts going against a familiar division foe.

Chen struggled with command from the outset and lasted only 3 2/3 innings in a 10-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Friday night. Chen snapped a string of five consecutive quality starts by the Royals’ pitching staff, which had allowed only 12 earned runs through 53 1/3 innings this season.

Against the team he’s faced more than any other in his major league career, Chen (0-1) gave up six runs and seven hits while walking two.

"I wasn’t pounding the strike zone like I usually do," Chen said. "I wasn’t commanding my pitches as well as I wanted to and it ended up costing me. Threw a lot of pitches and fell behind a lot of the guys and they got into really good hitters’ counts. That cannot happen. I have to make sure that I pound the strike zone so that they can hit the pitch I want them to hit. Instead, I have to throw the pitch they want to hit."

The surprisingly high-scoring Twins entered with the second-most runs in the American League, while Kansas City, with the lowest run output in the AL, couldn’t handle Minnesota starter Kyle Gibson (2-0). The Royals finished with five hits and their only run came on an RBI groundout from Billy Butler with one out in the first inning.

Gibson retired 14 of the next 18 batters he faced.

"It started out good for us, got a run in the first inning and you’re thinking, OK, we can add on to that, but never quite could," Kansas City manager Ned Yost said.

Minnesota quickly answered with two runs in the first off Chen.

"I should have been able to make better pitches in the first inning, especially since we scored a run," Chen said. "I take pride every time going out there of giving my team a chance to win and today I didn’t do that."

Chen started the run of strong starts for the Royals last Saturday in his first outing of the season by giving up one run and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings against the Chicago White Sox.

However, against a patient Twins lineup that worked many deep counts, the soft-tossing lefty fell behind and only 48 of his 87 pitches were strikes. It was just the second time in nine games that the Royals did not get a quality start.

"He wasn’t sharp and when he’s not sharp, the result generally is high pitch counts, and that’s exactly what happened to him," Yost said. "We had high pitch counts all night long. I think we averaged 25 pitches an inning, which, if you do that, you’re going to get the result that we got."

Minnesota scored five times in the fourth against Chen and reliever Louis Coleman, starting with a home run from Josmil Pinto off Chen to the second deck in left field. Minnesota put two more runners on before Joe Mauer got his first RBI of the season with a single to right field, chasing Chen.

With the bases loaded, Coleman threw his second wild pitch in as many batters, allowing a run to score, before Chris Colabello lined a two-run double down the left field line for a 7-1 lead.

Mike Moustakas had two hits for Kansas City, which had won seven straight at Target Field.

NOTES: Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was away from the team and also is expected to miss Saturday’s game to attend the funeral for Michael Hirschbeck in Ohio. Hirschbeck, the son of umpire John Hirschbeck, died Tuesday at age 27. … Kansas City 2B Omar Infante returned after missing two games. He sprained his jaw and needed six stitches to close a cut after getting hit in the face by a pitch Monday. … It was Minnesota’s first night game of the year. … Royals RHP Michael Mariot made his major league debut. He struck out Mauer. … Starting with this one, Kansas City plays 13 of 16 games on the road. … RHP James Shields (0-1, 2.70 ERA) pitches Saturday against Minnesota RHP Ricky Nolasco (0-1, 9.00).