The story of the game was a lack of control — Brad Keller’s inability to find the strike zone, and the Twins’ inability to hold a lead.
Keller — a sixth-year Royal — has a reputation for command issues, which have ballooned to a 6.8 BB/9 in 25 innings entering play today. This afternoon wasn’t much better; Keller gave up six hits and just one run, but probably would have fared better if he hadn’t walked five and thrown a pair of wild pitches.
One of the wild pitches, coming in the fourth inning, brought home the game’s first run. Byron Buxton, having drawn a leadoff walk and later advanced to third on Keller’s first errant delivery, came home with two outs when the Royal starter sent another one wide of catcher M.J. Melendez’s glove. (I say “first” errant delivery; it was merely the first one of consequence, as Keller had alternately evaded the strike zone by way of the backstop and near hitters’ heads.)
While this was the game’s first run, I would be remiss not to mention Jorge Polanco’s single in the first, which came about as close to a home run as you can get at Target Field, but resulted in the end of the inning nevertheless.
So, it was with just a 1-0 lead that Bailey Ober returned to work in the fifth, only to cough up the advantage and allow Kansas City to tie the game. Nicky Lopez’s one-out RBI single scored Edward Olivares, who had led off the frame with a double. It was the only scratch against Ober’s ledger; the de facto #6 man pitched into the sixth again, walking two and allowing just four hits to pair with six strikeouts, in an outing awfully similar to his affair with Washington last weekend.
As both sides’ bullpens traded blows, the game swung back to Minnesota’s hands when Byron Buxton corked a wall-scraper of his own in the seventh, his sixth trip in the truck this season.
But the Twins seemed unable to stay ahead of Kansas City today. Just as they had done in the fifth, Minnesota coughed up the tying run in the top of the 8th; Griffin Jax issued a free pass to Bobby Witt Jr., watched as he stole second, and could only observe as Jorge Lopez gave up a two-out RBI single to noted Twin killer Salvador Perez. Once again, things were knotted up.
With the game even at 2-2 heading into the ninth, Jhoan Duran — freshly returned from the wonderful world of immigration paperwork — began a rocky ninth. Walking his leadoff man, Duran then ran a full count on Michael Massey, only to automatically allow a base on balls after a razor-thin 3-2 pitch clock violation. One sac bunt later, a narratively-ironic wild pitch would allow the third Royal run — an avoidable one — giving Kansas City their first lead of the afternoon.
That lead would be threatened in the bottom of the ninth, but to no avail. Consecutive one-out singles from Carlos Correa and Jorge Polanco went un-cashed-in, with Byron Buxton taking a called strike three and Trevor Larnach bouncing right back to the mound. For the first time in what can only be described as a “hot minute,” Kansas City took a victory at Target Field.
The series wraps up tomorrow afternoon, with Minnesota getting a Monday reset before opening a series on the south side of Chicago. See you folks on Sunday!
SP Bailey Ober (5.2 IP, 4 H, ER, 2 BB, 6 K)
RF Max Kepler (2-for-3, BB)
SS Carlos Correa (2-for-4, BB)
DH Byron Buxton (1-for-4, 2 R, RBI, BB, HR)
RP Jhoan Duran (1 IP, ER, 3 BB, K, WP, L)
1B Joey Gallo (0-for-4, 3 K, 4 LOB)