Twins come up empty against Kansas City
The Minnesota Twins’ offense had surprised a lot of people through the first few weeks of the season. A lineup that wasn’t expected to score many runs entered Friday’s game against the Royals with the second-most runs in baseball.
That is, until Minnesota ran into Kansas City starter Jason Vargas.
For the first time all season, the Twins were held scoreless in Friday’s 5-0 loss at Kauffman Stadium. Vargas pitched seven shutout innings, while the Royals bullpen came in to toss two more scoreless innings as Minnesota’s offense was shut down. The same Twins team that averaged 5.7 runs through its first 15 games simply couldn’t get anything going at the plate Friday.
It was the second time already this season that Minnesota had faced Vargas. He held the Twins to two runs in seven innings last week, but one-upped that performance on Friday.
"He was very good. That’s a couple times here in the last week we faced him," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "He again had his pitches working for him. His fastball, locating it really well, and a nice little curveball and then always that great changeup. He was cutting his fastball and running it away from us and kept us off balance. We didn’t do too awful much against him."
The Twins finished the game with seven hits, although all seven of them were singles. It marked the first time in 16 games this season that Minnesota failed to register an extra-base hit.
And the Twins had drawn more walks than any team in baseball entering this weekend’s series. But that patience at the plate was nowhere to be found Friday against the Royals, as Minnesota drew just one walk. It was just the second time this year the Twins only had one walk — the other instance came in the season opener against Chicago.
Minnesota threatened in the first inning with a pair of two-out hits by Joe Mauer and Chris Colabello, but Mauer never advanced past second base as Trevor Plouffe flew out to end the first. The Twins had just one other batter reach second base all game, and that came in the seventh inning — and again with two outs. Kurt Suzuki and Aaron Hicks picked up back-to-back singles against Vargas, yet both runners were stranded on the bases after pinch hitter Jason Kubel flew out to left to end the threat.
Vargas finished the night with four strikeouts and just one walk while scattering seven hits through seven innings. After blanking the Twins on Friday, Vargas improved to 2-0 on the year with a 1.24 ERA.
"He’s been doing that for us all year," Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said of Vargas. "He comes out and pounds strikes and lets the defense work and at the same time gets the offense in there and lets us work."
Twins starter Ricky Nolasco was roughed up a bit, as he allowed five runs on 11 hits in 5 2/3 innings. But the right-hander was given no run support. Kansas City scored its first two runs in the third inning, which would have been plenty on a night in which Minnesota’s offense was stymied. However, Nolasco surrendered another run in the fifth and two more in the sixth before his night was done.
Friday’s game came one day after Minnesota faced Toronto in a split doubleheader. The Twins won both of those games by scoring seven runs in the matinee and nine runs in the night cap. Previously, Minnesota had scored 10 runs three different times as players like Chris Colabello, Trevor Plouffe and Jason Kubel all got off to better starts than most people anticipated.
There was no one in Minnesota’s lineup Friday, however, that could do any damage offensively. Designated hitter Josmil Pinto was the only Twins player with more than one hit as he had a pair of singles. Pinto tried to stretch his first hit into a double but was thrown out by left fielder Alex Gordon at second base.
It was that kind of night for the Twins, who will try to find their bats on Saturday against soft-tossing left-hander Bruce Chen. Minnesota scored six runs against Chen just last week at Target Field.
FOX Sports North’s Marney Gellner contributed to this report.
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