Bunt proves costly as Royals fall to Twins
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- The Royals had scratched and clawed their way back in the game, thanks in no small part to back-to-back errors by the Minnesota Twins.
They had two runners on and none out in the fourth inning Monday night when manager Ned Yost called for Alcides Escobar to lay down a bunt, which he did to perfection. The runners moved into scoring position and gave Kansas City a chance to take the lead.
Jarrod Dyson and Humberto Quintero promptly struck out.
The rally effectively killed, Minnesota bounced back the next half inning with three runs to retake the lead, and the Twins never looked back in a 10-7 victory.
"It was the right play. We had battled back and tied the score," Yost said. "I was trying to get us ahead in the fourth inning going into the fifth. I felt like if we could take the lead going into the fifth inning we would be in pretty good shape."
So he elected to have Escobar, who is hitting .293, lay down a bunt to set things up for the light-hitting Dyson (.264) and the plodding Quintero (.234).
"At the time we were tied. I was counting on the two guys, either Dyson putting the ball in play with the infield playing back to give us the lead, or Q getting a big two-out hit," Yost said. "Neither one of those things happened."
Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham each hit two-run homers, and Trevor Plouffe also went deep off Royals starter Will Smith (1-2) to power the Twins. Jamey Carroll reached base four times and drove in a pair, and Ben Revere also had two RBIs.
The offense was enough to support Cole De Vries (1-1), lasted five shaky innings to pick up his first major league victory in his third career start.
"I was impressed he was able to hang in there," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Any time you get an opportunity to celebrate y our first career win, it's a special deal."
Mike Moustakas homered and had a pair of doubles with two RBIs, and Eric Hosmer also drove in two runs for the Royals, providing them with at least a few bright spots.
The error by Escobar at shortstop in the first inning certainly wasn't one of them. Nor was the stretch of three walks issued by Royals pitchers in the sixth inning.
Of course, the Twins were having plenty of problems of their own.
They led 4-1 in the bottom of the fourth when Moustakas followed a pair of singles to start the inning with an RBI double. Jeff Francoeur proceeded to slap a grounder to Minnesota shortstop Brian Dozier, who let the ball go right through the wickets for a run.
Hosmer was next to bat and hit a grounder at second baseman Alexi Casilla, who stumbled all over himself for another error. The Royals wound up tying the game on the play.
Then came perfectly executed sacrifice bunt that ultimately ended the Royals' rally.
Smith retired Revere to start the fifth, but he walked Willingham before serving up a fat pitch to Morneau, who sent it sailing over the right-field wall. Plouffe's homer traveled nearly as far to left field and restored Minnesota's three-run advantage.
Smith was charged with seven runs on eight hits and two walks in 4 2-3 innings, a somewhat sobering performance after he allowed two runs over six frames his last time out.
"When your offense gives you runs, you're supposed to go out there and put up a zero to help the momentum going," Smith said. "I just didn't do that. I gave it right back to them."
Notes: The Twins have committed five errors in their past two games, yet won both. ... Royals OF Alex Gordon went 0 for 4 to snap a seven-game hitting streak. ... Morneau has hit 14 homers at Kauffman Stadium, the most of any road ballpark. ... Hosmer has a seven-game hitting streak. ... The Twins put RHP Carl Pavano (strained right shoulder) on the 15-day DL and reinstated RHP Nick Blackburn (strained left quad) before the game. Blackburn will start Wednesday's series finale. ... LHP Francisco Liriano goes Tuesday for Minnesota. LHP Bruce Chen starts for Kansas City.