Plenty of people had a bad day at the park on Sunday, from lefthander Tommy Milone needing GPS to find the strike zone to umpires calling for a weather delay before the first pitch when there was no rain.
What the Twins should have done was lasso the rain clouds that eventually passed over Target Field and held them so the game could have been washed out. That would have avoided the 12-6 steamrolling they suffered at the hands of the playoff-hungry Kansas City Royals.
Of course, that’s not possible. And enough about weather. Royals righthander Jeremy Guthrie sat through two delays totaling 1 hour, 28 minutes and still pitched seven solid innings.
The Twins simply were smoked by a Royals team that hit three home runs and tied its season high for runs in a game. Kansas City moved to 1½ games in front of Detroit for the AL Central lead.
Milone’s Target Field debut was a clunker: 1⅓ innings, six earned runs, four hits, two walks, one hit batter and one strikeout. His start was delayed 34 minutes because of the threat of rain. The belief was that storms were going to hit during the first inning, so the decision was made to wait. After no rain fell, they decided to play.
Milone, acquired last month from the Oakland Athletics in the Sam Fuld deal, pitched a 1-2-3 first inning, but it was raining when he took the mound for the second inning with a 1-0 lead and he suddenly couldn’t throw strikes.
“The weather was not conducive to pitching in that inning,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “It was raining pretty hard. He tried to pitch through it, but it was pretty much a mess. I don’t think he had a feel for the ball.”
Eight of the nine Royals batters Milone faced that inning reached base, and Kansas City scored seven runs to take control of the game. Two runs scored when Brian Dozier slipped while trying to stop Omar Infante’s grounder.
“It was terrible,” Dozier said. “I don’t think I’ve played in that weather. It was coming down pretty good.”
Milone was pulled after 40 pitches, 22 of them strikes — and many of them were struck.
“It was tough to keep my hand on the ball dry,” Milone said.
Home plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth, also the crew chief, called for the tarp to be pulled onto the field as the Twins batted in the second. By then, the infield was in the early stages of puddling. The second delay lasted 54 minutes.
The conditions were poor, and the decision to delay the start can be debated. But Guthrie thrived. He gave up four earned runs over seven innings on five hits and two walks while striking out seven. Perhaps he’s amphibious.
The Twins did have some highlights. Danny Santana led off the first by hitting a Guthrie breaking ball for a triple and scoring the first run of the game. Joe Mauer, swinging at the first pitch of the third inning, hit his third home run of the season.
Kennys Vargas, who doesn’t looked overmatched so far despite being called up just more than two weeks ago from Class AA New Britain, was 3-for-4 with a two-run home run.
Oswaldo Arcia, who’s working on cutting down his swing, hit a two-run homer in the eighth that traveled an estimated 414 feet.
With 40 games left in the season, many veterans will play for pride. But what could make this team interesting is how such youngsters as Santana, Vargas and Arcia gain experience.
“It’s fun to watch,” Gardenhire said. “We’re hoping these young kids can step in and start taking over.”
While they wait for more signs of progress from those players, the Twins might be wise to follow one of the rules of journalism:
Never lead with the weather.