KANSAS CITY, MO. – Ricky Nolasco was a different pitcher than the one he’s been most of the season on Tuesday, and that’s good for the Twins. Glen Perkins was a different pitcher, too — and that’s very bad.
For the first time all season, Nolasco didn’t give up a run. But Perkins did, two of them, and the Royals celebrated a 2-1 victory over the Twins on Alex Gordon’s ninth-inning homer off the Twins’ closer.
“I feel bad for [Nolasco]. He had seven shutout innings and threw the ball really well, and he and the team don’t have anything to show for it,” said Perkins, who had not surrendered a walk-off hit since 2011.
Neither was the feeling Nolasco suffered through in the first two innings, when the flu he and several of his Twins teammates have been fighting made him miserable on the mound. But “I really think I just sweated everything out in the first couple of innings,” said Nolasco, who had allowed nine runs over 12 ⅔ innings in his first two starts back from a strained elbow ligament.
This time, he gave up only three singles over seven innings, striking out six and allowing one baserunner to reach third base.
“I thought I made a lot of pretty good pitches,” he said, “and I got away with a lot of mistakes.”
Perkins wasn’t so lucky. The lefthander had been 8-for-8 in save opportunities against the Royals during his career, but after Alcides Escobar led off the ninth with a pop-up that fell in just out of reach in short center field, Perkins tried an 0-1 slider with Gordon.
“That’s a spot where I’m probably trying to throw it in the strike zone, but not in the middle of the strike zone,” said Perkins, 32-of-37 in save situations this year.
Gordon launched it just beyond the right-field fence, and the fountains right behind it went off in celebration as the Royals maintained their 1½-game lead over the Tigers in the AL Central. “I don’t think any of us saw that one coming — a bloop and a blast,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Danny Duffy matched Nolasco inning for inning, but the young lefthander, who had beaten the Twins twice already this season, blinked first. Brian Dozier led off the seventh inning by lining a 91-mile-per-hour fastball into the left-field corner, and Joe Mauer followed with a two-strike single to left center that drove Dozier home.
Buxton’s status unclear
Byron Buxton’s season didn’t end with a concussion, or at least the Twins hope not. If he is cleared by doctors, baseball’s top prospect will play in the Arizona Fall League for the second straight season.
“We’ve got to get him ready. He’s played part of one game in the last three months,” Twins vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff said. “He’s ridden a lot of bikes, taken some dry swings, hit off a tee, but he hasn’t played any baseball. It’s a lost year, no doubt, but there’s still a chance for him to make some progress.”
If he recovers with no problems from the concussion he suffered during an outfield collision at Class AA New Britain on Aug. 13, he will play for the Salt River Rafters, along with six other Twins prospects.
Outfielder Max Kepler, batting .257 at Class A Fort Myers this year, and Eddie Rosario, hitting .237 at New Britain, also will make return appearances in the AFL. The Twins will also send four pitchers, though only three have been settled on: righthander Jason Adam and lefthanders Mason Melotakis and Taylor Rogers, all at New Britain.
A fourth, Nick Burdi, was incorrectly listed on the Rafters’ roster, but Radcliff said he was only one of “a few candidates” for the remaining spot.
Organization shy of 10,000 homers
After researching its records, Elias Sports Bureau has said the Twins and their Washington Senators forerunners have hit 9,999 home runs in the franchise’s 114-year history.
The next homer will make the Twins the 16th major league franchise to reach 10,000 home runs.