KANSAS CITY, MO. – The Twins couldn’t have crafted it any better. Gabriel Moya “opened” with two scoreless innings on Thursday, then “primary pitcher” Stephen Gonsalves didn’t allow a hit during his outing.
Finally, the strategy was working. Well, sort of.
The problem this time was Gonsalves. While he didn’t give up hits he sure did issue free passes. And that led to a brief appearance against the Royals. And once the bullpen door swung open, it didn’t stop opening as Kansas City scored four runs in the sixth inning to pull away to a 6-4 win, handing the Twins their sixth consecutive road loss and sixth consecutive loss at Kaufman Stadium.
The Twins led 2-1 in the sixth when the Royals roared past them with four runs. That included back-to-back home runs off righthander Alan Busenitz, the first a two-run homer by Salvador Perez, followed by Jorge Bonifacio's solo shot.
“The guys we brought in,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said, “it seemed like they were pitching from behind a lot and making mistakes. You have to pay the price for that and we did.”
The Twins are learning a lot during this experimental period, about building a rotation and setting up bullpen roles. But it still comes down to pitchers being able to get outs. That didn’t happen on Thursday, as the Twins used five different pitchers over the first six innings. The staff walked seven batters, shockingly the 15th time this season the Twins have walked seven or more in a game.
“Too many baserunners that didn’t have to swing the bat,” Molitor said. “A couple plays we missed. It wasn’t a really good game in that regard.”
Gonsalves, who took the mound in the third inning with a 2-0 lead following Jake Cave’s homer with a man on in the second, led Twins pitchers with four walks during his three-inning outing. He walked the first two batters of the fourth, then wild-pitched them to second and third before escaping that jam.
He struck out the first two batters of the fifth, then tried to strike out Whit Merrifield to end the inning but ended up walking him. Merrifield scored when shortstop Jorge Polanco booted Mondesi’s grounder into center field.
“I felt everything was connecting,” Gonsalves said. “Once I struck out two, I think I got a little strikeout hungry and wanted to strike out the side. Was trying to throw the ball as hard as I could and I missed a couple to Merrifield on the outside corner.
“I think those are times I have to realize and grow as a pitcher. Just don’t be overanxious. Settle in. I’ve got professionals behind me. Nine guys versus one guy at the plate.”
Gonsalves, who threw 69 pitches over three innings, was lifted after the fifth.
Busenitz replaced him in the sixth and gave up a leadoff double to Hunter Dozier — the Royals’ first hit of the game. Busenitz then left a pitch over the plate and Perez socked it out to left for his 25th home run.
Perez now has 21 home runs and 78 RBI against the Twins in his career, the most against any opponent.
“I was trying to go up and just didn’t get it up,” Busenitz said of the fastball he threw to Perez. “Just right down the middle.”