Royals 4, Twins 2
There's a big difference between a fallout following an emotional mid-week series with do-or-die playoff implications against the team directly in front of you in the standings, and simply not being able to win a game you have to win. A victory Saturday afternoon would have ensured that, at worst, the White Sox would have had to play the Tigers to decide their fate. A victory would have put into motion a number of scenarios, with most of them ending with the Twins at least playing the White Sox in a one-game playoff for the division crown.
In spite of allowing just one run, Glen Perkins' performance left a lot to be desired. He struggled to finish five innings, throwing 85 pitches, thanks to long innings in the first and fifth. Nearly 70 percent of his offerings were for strikes, which is actually a bit high, but the problem was the length of the plate appearances; hitters saw 4.25 pitches per plate appearance. Mike Aviles led off the game with a ten-pitch at-bat (all of which were fastballs) for the longest plate appearance for Perkins, but a number of hitters saw five pitches or more. It's hard to be efficient and eat up innings that way.
On top of that, Perkins continues to bust hitters with fastball after mediocre fastball. This is not only infuriating to fans and dangerous to the fortunes of a team, but it's just annoying. A better hitting team than Kansas City would have disposed of Perkins long before the fifth with numbers like these:
1st Inning: 15 fastballs, 3 changeups, 1 slider
2nd Inning: 11 fastballs, 1 changeup, 2 sliders
3rd Inning: 13 fastballs, 1 curveball
4th Inning: 13 fastballs, 1 changeup, 2 sliders
5th Inning: 19 fastballs, 1 changeup, 2 sliders
If I'm any opponent, I'm just waiting for another fastball over the plate. But in spite of it all, Perk still left the game having protected a 2-1 lead. Then you know what happened. Boof Bonser faces four hitters, all reach base, and one scores to tie it up. With all due credit, Bonser was pulled for Craig Breslow who sat down Alex Gordon on strikes. Then Matt Guerrier came in and did what he hasn't done in what seems like forever: his job. He got both John Buck and Mitch Maier out, including a force out at the plate. It could have been a whole lot worse, but the damage was done.
Guerrier started the seventh after an effective sixth, but what we've seen repeatedly over the last two months came to bear once more: base runners, flat, hittable balls, and runs. Going back to July 31, Guerrier has an ERA north of 10, and if the Twins make October there needs to be serious deliberation over whether or not he deserves a roster spot. It might be best to shut him down over something, anything, before the game tomorrow. Jesse Crain struck out two, but did allow one inherited runner to score, and by the end of the Kansas City seventh they'd lead by the final score.
Of course, the Twins had their opportunities to get back into it. With bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the inning, John Bale got Justin Morneau to roll over on a first-pitch fastball to induce an inning-ending double play. And again, in the bottom of the ninth, both Denard Span and Alexi Casilla drew free passes to lead off the inning. Joe Mauer grounded into a double play this time, and Justin Morneau flied out to left field to wrap it up.
It's been two maddening games for us, but it has to pale compared to what's happening in the club house right now. And even that, I'm happy to say, pales in comparison to what the Pale Hosers are going through. As I write this, the Indians have scored two more runs, increasing their lead to 6-1 in the fifth. Suffice it to say I'm a big Cleveland fan again tonight.
As much as it may seem like it at time, the season is not over. It's just not, no matter how much the Twins appear to play like it is. I'll see you here tomorrow for Game 162, because we all know it's going to matter.