Twins blast three HRs but can't overcome Royals' big first inning

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 10, 2013 - 6:00 AM

Three homers wasn’t enough to offset K.C.’s five-run first inning.

view larger photos



– Baseball isn’t basketball, where a team can force-feed its offense through its best player in the decisive moments. No, the Twins had to settle for Joe Mauer at the plate in the ninth inning Tuesday.

Instead of, say, Eduardo Escobar.

The utility infielder, who now leads the Twins in batting average, slugging percentage and RBI, collected three hits and crushed his first career home run, but he was standing on second base as Mauer, trying to bat amid a driving rainstorm with the bases loaded, swung and missed a Greg Holland changeup, ending the Twins’ second consecutive loss to the Royals, 7-4 in Kauffman Stadium.

“It’s tough enough to face a major-league closer; then you add in that stuff — the rain, the mud — it’s not easy,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, whose team fell behind 5-1 in the first inning and, despite doubling its season-long home run output in only five innings, never quite closed the gap. “But I’ll take that guy at the plate in that situation every time.”

OK, but Escobar looks like a pretty good second choice right now. Picked up from the White Sox in the Francisco Liriano trade, the (generously) 5-10 middle infielder is nobody’s idea of a power hitter, and certainly Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie never suspected as much. But after driving in a run with a single up the middle in the second inning, Escobar worked the count to 3-2 in the fifth, then waited for a fastball.

“I got the fastball, and I put a good swing on it,” he said through interpreter Wilkin Ramirez. “I never hit [a home run] in the big leagues. I never knew it was going that far.”

Escobar, batting lefthanded, slugged the ball nearly 400 feet, into the back of the seating area in left-center, the first home run of his 65-game major-league career. “That was impressive,” Gardenhire said. “He can swing the bat, but I don’t think any of us knew he could hit it that far [to the] opposite field. That was a pretty good swing.”

Only thing wrong with it: The bases were empty, just as they were when Mauer wrapped a Guthrie fastball just inside the left-field foul pole in the first inning, and when Josh Willingham sailed another fastball into the Royals bullpen in the third. The Twins hit as many home runs in five innings as they had in the season’s first seven games, but still trailed by three runs.

That’s because starter Mike Pelfrey’s sinker was staying too high to too many hitters. The former Met, coming off elbow-ligament replacement surgery less than a year ago, gave up hits to the first five batters he faced, gave up six runs in only two innings, and was done after throwing only 62 pitches.

“I was terrible tonight. The frustrating thing is, I had a lot better stuff today than I did [in his debut last Thursday], but I didn’t execute as well,” said Pelfrey (1-1), who beat the Tigers at Target Field last week. “The sinker was a little up, a little flat, and I left a couple over the middle. Like I said, they kicked my butt. I’ll take the blame for this — 6-2 after two [innings] is crap.”

Yet the Twins nearly climbed back. Anthony Swarzak allowed one run in four innings, Ryan Pressly pitched two scoreless frames, and the Twins loaded the bases in the ninth before the rally died in the steady rain.

More rain is in the forecast Wednesday, so the Royals might avoid having to face the Twins’ hottest hitter for awhile. Escobar is hitting .545 on the season now, he’s slugging .909, and his five RBI are tied for the team lead. And he’s second on the team in homers, too, ahead of a few notable power hitters.

“I’m happy about [the] home run,” Escobar said shyly, “but I don’t think it’s going to be long before [Justin] Morneau has more than me.”


  • related content

  • Postgame: Pelfrey wanted to save Twins bullpen

    Tuesday April 9, 2013

    The Twins' Tuesday night starter volunteered to pitch a third inning after a rough outing.

  • Twins' Hicks gets a night off to watch

    Wednesday April 10, 2013

    In hopes of helping him relax, manager Ron Gardenhire left Aaron Hicks out of the Twins’ lineup for the first time Tuesday, replacing him with a now-healthy-enough Darin Mastroianni

  • Twins-Royals game recap

    Wednesday April 10, 2013

    GAME RECAPImpact playerAlex Gordon, RoyalsLed off the first inning with a single, led off the second inning with a triple,...

  • Kansas City Royals' Salvador Perez (13) asks for timeout while Minneso...

  • Minnesota Twins relief pitcher Anthony Swarzak wipes his head during the third inning.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Atlanta 7 FINAL
Pittsburgh 5
Miami 5 FINAL
St. Louis 3
Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman 4 FINAL
Detroit - WP: J. Nathan 6
Minnesota 4 FINAL
Boston 5
NY Yankees 5 FINAL
Tampa Bay 6
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Toronto 4
Cincinnati 13 FINAL
Cleveland 2
Los Angeles 9 FINAL
Chicago WSox 6
Kansas City 3 FINAL
Seattle 0
Seattle 1 FINAL
Milwaukee 15
San Diego 3 FINAL
Arizona 3
Washington 3
LA Angels 8 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 4
Colorado 3 FINAL
Texas 6
Oakland 6 FINAL
San Francisco 4
Indiana 107 FINAL
Milwaukee 111
Pittsburgh 2 FINAL
Carolina 5
New Jersey 2 FINAL(OT)
Washington 3
Los Angeles 3 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Arizona 4 FINAL(OT)
Buffalo 3
Anaheim 3 FINAL(OT)
Boston 2
Nashville 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
San Jose 6 FINAL
Detroit 4
NY Rangers 5 FINAL
Ottawa 1
Florida 4 FINAL
Toronto 1
Montreal 2 FINAL
Winnipeg 5
Colorado 4 FINAL
Vancouver 1
Wichita State 70 FINAL
Notre Dame 81
North Carolina 72 FINAL
Wisconsin 79
Evansville 89 FINAL
Louisiana 82
West Virginia 39 FINAL
Kentucky 78
Xavier 60 FINAL
Arizona 68
St Johns 55 FINAL
Villanova 63
NC State 79 FINAL
Temple 80
Missouri 55 FINAL
Michigan 65
Oral Roberts 64 FINAL
Louisiana 65
Duquesne 39 FINAL
West Virginia 60
Ole Miss 70 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 82
Northern Colorado 60 FINAL
St Marys-CA 77 FINAL
Sacramento St 69
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: What are you following most closely right now?

Weekly Question