Royals Miss Opportunities. Twins Don't.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.  The Royals travel to Minnesota, leave runners on in key situations and the Twins come up when it matters.

Somebody on Twitter likened the Royals struggles with the Twins to Lou Brown talking to Indians General Manager Charlie Donovan in Major League – “One of these days we’ll figure out how to beat those guys.”

It seems the Twins always have the Royals at arm’s length.  They don’t win all the games, but they win the blowouts and they win more of the close ones.  Tonight, they won one that they shouldn’t have, and the Royals lost one that they should have won.

And no, it’s not all on Robinson Tejeda (though he does take a lot of the blame).

One of the challenges about this season will be sitting through the losses while the young players on the big league roster learns how to win games.  They’ll have to take their lumps once in a while.

Still, they should have had this one.

When Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Delmon Young combine to go 2-14 and you lose, you’ve missed a chance to get away with one.  The Twins even gave the Royals a few free bases with misplays and an error.

Alcides Escobar led off the top of the seventh with a chopper to third.  Danny Valencia came up with it but overthrew and pulled Morneau off first.  Down 3-2, Chris Getz squared to bunt to sacrifice Escobar to second, but starter Brian Duensing threw it into foul territory, allowing Getz and Escobar to reach second and third.  One sharp shot off Duensing’s leg later and the Royals had tied the game with nobody out, runners on first and third and Alex Gordon and Billy Butler coming up.

If you’ve seen a Royals/Twins game, you know how this ends.  Gordon struck out against Jose Mijares and Butler popped out to second against Matt Capps.  Jeff Francoeur, on cue, struck out looking.

The score was tied, so the Royals still had a shot.  Jeff Francis wasn’t as sharp as in his first two starts, but went seven solid innings walking just one and striking out five.  He gave way to Aaron Crow who worked 1.1 innings, giving up a hit to Michael Cuddyer and walking Danny Valencia to open up the ninth.  After he struck out Luke Hughes, the Twins brought in Jim Thome.  The Royals brought in Tim Collins.

All frustration aside, the Thome/Collins matchup was a highlight.  To set the stage, you have a future Hall of Famer who’s 10 bombs away from 600 career homers facing the ultimate underdog, a 5’7″ (generously) rookie reliever who went undrafted out of high school.  We learned tonight that Collins won’t back down – he challenged Thome with a couple 94 mph fastballs before Thome connected on a changeup for a soft liner into right center.  Collins retired Denard Span for the second out and with the winning run on second, Joe Mauer came to the plate.  He flew out to right.

Collins opened the bottom of the tenth facing Morneau.  All he did was strike him out looking.  Tim Collins was unfazed.

Robinson Tejeda, on the other hand…

There have been rumblings about Tejeda’s loss in velocity and he’s lost command as well if you’ve seen him this year.  After two bouts with tendinitis over the last two years, we might see a DL stint in his future.  Delmon Young hit a hard shot to right field leading off the bottom of the tenth.  Tejeda walked Michael Cuddyer on four pitches.  This is where someone should have been warming up.  Jeremy Jeffress, Nate Adcock, anyone.  Tejeda clearly didn’t have it.

Jason Kubel hit a shot that should have been out, but the wind was blowing in from right center field.  Jeff Francoeur nearly caught it anyway but it fell out of his glove.  Somehow, the Twins scrambled to advance on a long single off the wall.  Tejeda didn’t retire an out, though, as Valencia singled to win the game.

So yeah, Tejeda lost it and I think once the third ball hit Brayan Pena‘s glove with Cuddyer up someone should have been quickly warming up – Jeremy Jeffress, Nate Adcock, even Joakim Soria (who’s paid to stop this kind of thing from happening).  Tejeda was left out there and gave it up.

Again, though, it’s not all his fault.  The Royals had nobody out and runners on first and third – a scenario where they’d be expected to score 1.844 runs according to Run Expectancy from 1993-2010.  They scored zero.  Cabrera’s shot off Duensing’s leg was the last hit the Royals got all night.  The Twins bullpen shut down 12 straight after that (aided by a called strike two against Cabrera that was about a foot off the plate and could have put him on with a walk with Gordon coming up).

And that part about how Mauer, Morneau and Young went 2-14?  Gordon and Butler went 1-9.

Missed opportunities.  Tomorrow’s another day – Kyle Davies takes the hill at noon against Francisco Liriano.

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Tags: Aaron Crow AL Central Alex Gordon Baseball Billy Butler Kansas City Royals KC Minnesota Twins MLB Robinson Tejeda Royals Tim Collins

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