It took two batters for P.J. Walters to look like a man who didn't know where the ball was going on Friday. After getting Alex Gordon to ground out, he walked Alcides Escobar (which isn't easy to do; the shortstop has only 12 walks all year) on four pitches, then walked around the mound and appeared to be reminding himself that this can't happen again. Not after the five-walks-in-the-first disaster in Cleveland last week.
He didn't walk another batter, but that was hardly an achievement. Instead of walking, the Royals ran around the bases and, in a couple of cases, trotted.
The shame is, as Ron Gardenhire said, "I thought we hit the ball pretty good." Minnesota was outhit only 11-10, and they had a few chances to get back into the game.
The Twins briefly fought back, scoring twice in the fourth on RBI doubles by Justin Morneau and Brian Dozier, and they could have cut K.C.'s lead to two, but right fielder David Lough made a diving catch of Pedro Florimon's liner. Clete Thomas added a 410-foot home run in the fifth, but the Twins never scored again.
They loaded the bases in the eighth inning with nobody out, but a popup by Trevor Plouffe, a lineout by Dozier and a groundout by Pedro Florimon wasted the opportunity.
-- Walters' sudden problems are a real dilemma for the Twins, considering that six weeks ago, he looked like the Twins' second-best starter, after Kevin Correia. Now it sure feels like he and Scott Diamond are pitching for their jobs this week, Diamond on Monday and Walters on Wednesday, both against the Yankees. Diamond has been pitching well for four innings, then melting down. Walters, in these last two starts, has simply been unable to get outs, right from the start. Each feels like only minor adjustments are required, but now is certainly the time to prove it.
-- The game was delayed by rain for 26 minutes, with the showers arriving just after the Twins took the field. Walters warmed up, then went back to the dugout, and had to start the process all over again. Didn't affect him, though, he said.
-- James Shields limited the Twins to three runs on eight hits to earn a win, snapping a 10-game winless streak, and left in the seventh inning. It was the 30th time in his last 31 starts that he pitched at least six innings; his 29-game streak was snapped last Sunday against Chicago. Shields is only 3-6 on the year, but his 2.99 ERA ranks 10th in the American League. The Royals have scored only nine total runs in his six losses. He hadn't left a game with a lead since May 6.
-- I asked Mike Pelfrey if he was planning to fly to Cedar Rapids for his rehab start on Monday. Turns out, he's making it a family excursion, piling his wife and two small kids into his car and driving down I-35 to Iowa. He'll go on Sunday, in order to make sure he's properly rested for the game, then drive home on Tuesday.
He made it clear that he's completely healthy again, too; in fact, he said his back pain disappeared in just a couple of days. If the pain had flared up a day or two earlier, he might have made his start and not gone on the disabled list at all.