KANSAS CITY, MO. – It was another night in which Laborious Lance Lynn fought the strike zone … and lost.
The Royals grabbed an early lead with a run that was set up by a walk. Lynn walked three batters in the third and, predictably, give up another run. He threw a whopping 118 pitches in five innings because of excessive three-ball counts and now leads Major League Baseball with 61 walks.
The Twins never recovered from their first-inning deficit Saturday night and lost 4-2 for their eighth consecutive road defeat. The Twins are a major league-worst 7-18 at Kauffman Stadium since 2016.
For all of Lynn’s struggles, the Twins trailed only 3-1 in the middle innings. He was handed a 1-0 first-inning lead when Joe Mauer became the Twins’ all-time leader with his 415th career double, then scored on Eddie Rosario’s single.
But the offense was culpable for what happened late, as it failed to do much against one of baseball’s worst bullpens.
“We score a run after three pitches and you’re hoping for a good offensive night, but not much followed,” manager Paul Molitor said. “For Lance, we milked him for 118 pitches, but he had to fight seemed like everyone. A lot of close pitches. Extra baserunners with the base on balls and it cost him, three of those base hits.”
With the July 31 nonwaiver deadline approaching, indications are that Lynn is seen, at most, as a fallback option for clubs looking for starting pitching. Outings such as Saturday’s — during which he tied a career high with six walks — threaten to silence the phone lines to the Twins front office. At 7-8, Lynn has matched his loss total from last year, when he was 11-8 with St. Louis.
What’s troubling for the Twins is that Lynn gets to two strikes and fails to finish batters off. The Royals on Saturday fouled off 28 pitches, a substantial amount.
“I don’t know what they are trying to do, but it’s pretty obvious that they’re trying to foul balls off,” Lynn said. “They aren’t really taking great swings. Salvy is the only one that’s taken some great swings off of me.”
That’s All-Star catcher Salvador Perez, who hit a two-run, opposite-field homer in the first inning to put Kansas City ahead to stay at 2-1. Perez fell behind in the count 0-2 but took two balls before homering. Two batters earlier, Jorge Bonifacio fell behind 0-2 but worked out a walk six pitches later.
In the third inning, the Royals loaded the bases on walks before Lucas Duda’s single put them ahead 3-1. A whopping 11 pitches were fouled off in that inning, five by Hunter Dozier, who eventually grounded out.
“Had a little trouble finishing when he got ahead,” Molitor said, “and there were enough guys where he got behind that he had to make pitches.”
The Twins got within 3-2 in the eighth on Eduardo Escobar’s RBI single, but the Royals scored in the bottom of the inning on two walks by Taylor Rogers and Whit Merrifield’s RBI single off Trevor Hildenberger.
Royals closer Wily Peralta, who gave up three earned runs in the ninth inning Friday, somehow pitched a 1-2-3 ninth Saturday to earn the save. Mauer went 3-for-4 with the record-breaking double, but he had little help.
After a 9-2 homestand to go into the All-Star break, the Twins have returned from it to lose twice to the team with the second-worst record in baseball — and now sit 9 ½ games out of first in the AL Central.
“It’s two games,” Molitor said. “Everyone comes out of the gate and you’re hoping to pick up where you left off. Not that easy. You’ve got to find a way to win wherever you’re at, who you’re playing.”