Let’s start with the positives.
Mike Moustakas homered and doubled twice. Eric Hosmer drove a ball deep the other way for a sacrifice fly, then doubled sharply into the gap later in the game. Jose Mijares struck out three in 1.1 innings. The Royals scored seven runs.
The bad news is that the Twins scored ten. Will Smith gave up three more homers. The Twins scored ten times.
The 10-7 loss is tough to swallow because the Royals had opportunities to score more.
Down 4-1 in the fourth, Johnny Giavotella led off against Cole De Vries, a 27-year-old rookie with a 4.01 ERA as a minor leaguer. Billy Butler ripped a hard single to left. Mike Moustakas hit his first double to drive in Giavotella and put runners on second and third with no outs.
Then the Twins tried to help the Royals out. Jeff Francoeur ripped a liner to short but Brian Dozier didn’t catch it and it slipped into left field. Eric Hosmer hit a chopper to Alexi Casilla, who slipped trying to make the play and everyone was safe. Three runs had scored, runners were on first and second and De Vries hadn’t been fooling anyone with the Royals getting a second look at him. Alcides Escobar, who’s actually been hitting all year and is third on the team in hits, came up and Ned Yost called a sacrifice bunt.
If I can borrow a line from Dennis Hopper – pop quiz hotshot, you have a batter hitting .300 and showing signs of being capable of putting the ball in play. The starting pitcher is on the ropes. His defense is falling apart behind him. Your next two batters are Jarrod Dyson and Humberto Quintero, your eighth and ninth batters. What do you do?
I’m not a fan of the bunt in general anyway, but in this case, to set up your last two batters – one with four extra base hits in 138 plate appearances to start the night and who’s struck out as many times as Eric Hosmer but in 2/3 the appearances (Dyson) and your catcher who was coming off of a May when he hit for a .578 OPS during the month (Quintero) – and with a pitcher about to fall apart, it shut down any momentum in the inning. Yost handed them a free out in the name of baseball convention.
Dyson and Quintero struck out looking to end the inning.
And no, I wouldn’t have felt any better about the bunt had either batter gotten a hit. You’ll have to take my word on that. It was another in a long line of free outs the Royals have given their opposition. Had the bunt been to set up Alex Gordon or Moustakas or Butler or Hosmer, perhaps I’d lighten my criticism. Still, on a night where the ball was carrying, the Royals starter was obviously shaky and it looked like the Royals were going to need runs, they gave up an out for a chance to manufacture one. Sometimes it’s okay to sit back and see if you can get a big inning. Maybe the result is the same, but the mean by which you get there are different, and that’s what’s important. It’s worth noting that Yost pinch-hit for Quintero in the ninth after expecting a “big hit” from him before.
Will Smith came back and gave up three more runs immediately after the Royals squandered their opportunity. After giving up a homer to Justin Morneau and with Louis Coleman ready Yost left Smith in. He gave up another homer to Trevor Plouffe, then was lifted.
The Royals tried to chip back into it in the ninth, but it was too little, too late.
Kansas City will go back out tomorrow with Bruce Chen trying to even out the series. Francisco Liriano goes against him.