Bailey Ober started this one for the Twins and delivered a rockier performance than we’ve been seeing from him lately, lasting 4.1 innings and allowing 3 runs with 6 strikeouts. The Royals got the scoring started in the top of the 1st with back to back hits to lead off the game and a Salvador Perez sacrifice fly that drove in Whit Merrifield.
In the bottom half of the 1st, Byron Buxton continued rounding back into early-season form with a leadoff ground rule double. Buck advanced to third on a passed ball and was driven in by a sacrifice fly from noted run producer Luis Arraez.
Adalberto Mondesi led off the 2nd inning with a 403 foot homer onto the concourse in right field giving KC a 2-1 lead. Ober would punch out the next three batters and finally settle in for the next few innings.
The score would stay 2-1 in favor of the Royals until the top half of the 5th. Ober would sandwich two singles around line out. With two runners on, one out, Ober at 75 pitches, and Merrifield due up, Rocco Baldelli decided that was enough from his starter. He turned to rookie left hander Jovani Moran to make his major league debut out of the bullpen in a tough spot, likely hoping Moran’s highly regarded changeup would have a chance to coax a double play ground ball.
Instead, Moran came with a high and tight fastball that Merrifield dumped just over the first baseman and onto the right field line for a two run double.
Moran would get his first big league strikeout and then some sliding catch help from Rob Refsnyder on a line drive in right field to get out of the inning with the Royals leading 3-1.
Moran stayed on for the top of the 6th, but found immediate trouble with a leadoff single by Andrew Benintendi. A pair of two out walks would load the bases and end Moran’s day. Ralph Garza Jr. would come out of the bullpen to escape the bases loaded spot with a harmless groundout.
In the bottom of the 6th, Buxton and Luis Arraez would get the comeback rally started with back to back hits against Royals’ starter Kris Bubic. Josh Donaldson drew a walk to load the bases with one out, forcing a pitching change and setting up RBI opportunities for Miguel Sanó and Brent Rooker.
Sanó would strikeout, but Rooker would come through with a two out, two run double down the left field line to tie the game at 3.
Garza Jr. would hold the Royals scoreless in the top of the 7th and KC lefty Jake Brentz would do the same to the Twins in the bottom half.
Jorge Alcala would take over for the top of the 8th and created a jam with a leadoff single followed by a walk. After a sacrifice bunt moved the runners to 2nd and 3rd with one out, the Twins cut down the go ahead run at the plate on an infield grounder that Arraez fed to catcher Ben Rortvedt. Alcala would not be able to escape the jam, though, as Royals’ rookie Kyle Isbel came through with a two out RBI single to give Kansas City a 4-3 lead.
It’s worth noting that all the hitters to reach base for Kansas City in the 8th against Alcala were left handed (his bugaboo). While it didn’t work out today, it was good of Baldelli to give Alcala a high leverage, developmental assignment against a lefty-heavy part of the Royals lineup.
The Twins threatened in the bottom of the 8th after an error and a walk, but Sanó grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to kill the threat.
Juan Minaya would cough up an insurance run in the top of the 9th to make it a 5-3 score and a two run lead for Royals’ closer Scott Barlow to protect. Max Kepler would give the Twins hope with a single, but Barlow was able to strike out Nick Gordon (pinch hitting for Andrelton Simmons, as we have all been asking for) to end the game.
The Royals mostly had control of this one, as the win probability chart from FanGraphs shows below. The Twins briefly were more likely to win after Rooker tied the game in the 6th, but it was short lived and most of the rest of the game favored Kansas City.
Merrifield’s doink double against Moran, Rooker’s double in the sixth, and Isbel’s game winning single in the 8th were the key plays in deciding the outcome. Sanó’s double play grounder with two runners on in the 8th ended up being the highest leverage spot in the entire game and dropped the Twins’ chances of winning from about 41% to 17%.
Sanó would rack up minus-0.41 win probability added (WPA) in this one, far and away the most of any player involved. Of the 18 Twins to play today, just four — Buxton, Donaldson, Rooker, and Garza Jr. — delivered positive WPA. Nine of the 16 Royals to appear today contributed positive WPA.
Ralph Garza Jr.: (1.1 IP, 0 H, 1K, escaped bases loaded jam)
Byron Buxton: (2-3, 2 R, 2B)
Brent Rooker: (1-3, 2 RBI, 2B)
Miguel Sanó: (0-4, 3K, 5 LOB)
Ryan Jeffers: (0-2, 2K)
Jorge Alcala: (1 IP, 2H, 1BB, 1 ER)
Twins batters with runners on: 16 Twins LOB in this one
The Twins make a one day trip to New York for a makeup date with the free-falling Yankees. John Gant is the expected starter for the Twins against a not yet announced pitcher for New York.