Twins continue to struggle with runners in scoring position
MINNEAPOLIS -- It was the story of the game -- of the season, really -- for the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday against Kansas City: too many men left on base.
When all was said and done, the Twins stranded 10 runners on base. It certainly didn't help that Minnesota finished a mere 3-for-17 with runners in scoring position.
Those both added up to a 4-3 loss to the Royals, who have now won a season-high eight games -- thanks in part to Minnesota's struggles on offense.
"We left a lot of people out there," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "A lot of strikeouts again. You need to put the ball in play a few times in those situations. I know they made some pitches, but boy, we looked a couple times like we didn't even really need to swing. A tough night for us."
The most glaring instance of the Twins' futility with runners in scoring position came in the bottom of the sixth inning. After Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau led off the inning with singles, Ryan Doumit followed suit with a single left field to fill the bases.
Trevor Plouffe then swung on the first pitch and grounded it to Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas, who fired home to retire Mauer for the first out.
"I thought we got anxious there a few times," Gardenhire said. "We had the bases loaded, no outs. I think Plouffe, that wasn't a good pitch to swing at, a little roller to third. That's not a good pitch in that situation."
With one out and the bases still loaded, the Twins finally scored a run on a walk by rookie Chris Herrmann. He drew a four-pitch walk from Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie to bring it Morneau from third.
But Aaron Hicks followed that up with a pop up to second base and Pedro Florimon -- who hit his seventh home run of the season earlier in the game -- struck out swinging to leave the bases loaded. It was just one of six times the Twins ended an inning with a strikeout in Wednesday's loss.
Minnesota had more chances with runners in scoring position, but again failed to capitalize. Doumit and Plouffe had back-to-back doubles to start the eighth, and Plouffe's double cut the Royals lead to 4-3. But Herrmann, Florimon and Clete Thomas all struck out to leave Plouffe at third and Aaron Hicks at second after Hicks reached on an infield single and stole second base. Kansas City used a combination of relievers Kelvin Herrera and Aaron Crow to escape the jam in the eighth.
"These guys, they've got a good pitching staff," Herrmann said. "Guys out of the pen are throwing 98 mph. That's hard to hit. You've got to give credit to these guys. We're going to score our runs, but tonight the pitchers got the best of us."
Neither team had much success with runners in scoring position Wednesday. While the Twins went 3-for-17 in that situation -- a stat magnified by the one-run loss -- Kansas City was 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left seven men on base.
Still, the Royals did enough to come away with the one-run victory, while Minnesota's struggles at the plate led it to drop its third straight game.
"Both teams had a lot of opportunities to score tonight," said Twins starting pitcher Kevin Correia, who allowed two runs in six innings. "Neither of us really took advantage of it."
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