KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After all the chess moves the Twins and Royals made, the five-infielder formation and the pinch-runners, the decisive moment Friday may have come courtesy of the rulesmakers.
Jarrod Dyson hit a chopper to Joe Mauer in the 10th inning, and Mauer fired the ball home. But Kurt Suzuki, setting up without blocking the plate, as MLB rules now require, couldn’t tag Lorenzo Cain before he slid past and touched the plate, earning the Royals a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over the Twins.
“It’s a tough loss,” manager Paul Molitor said. And the game’s final play hurt, he said, “but to me, the bigger story was, we didn’t score enough.”
True enough; the Twins have now scored 10 runs in their past six games against the Royals, and they had chances against Jeremy Guthrie and the Royals on Friday. But the game’s final play is typical of this series, with each team looking for any tiny opening to sneak a run across.
This one came when Cain led off the 10th by snapping a double into the left-field corner. After a strikeout, he moved to third on a wild pitch by reliever Aaron Thompson, for which Suzuki claimed the blame.
“I should have blocked it,” he said. “I thought I could catch it, but it was definitely a ball I should block.”
He’s not allowed to block the plate anymore, though, and it may have made the difference on the final play, as Cain, running on contact, slid to the foul side of the plate as Suzuki lunged for him. The Twins asked for a replay review, but it confirmed the run had scored.
Suzuki, once again, took responsibility for the play.
“That play happens so fast, you just go out there ready to make a play,” he said. “Joe came running at me with the ball, and I just try to catch it and put a tag down. I don’t really look where I’m setting up.”
Did he look at it on replay?
“It’s too painful right now,” he said. “I’ll look at it tomorrow.”
Molitor, though, thought Suzuki might have had a better chance if not for the anti-blocking rules now in place.
“Because the play unfolds so fast, you still probably need to give the guy a little bit of the lane, but it makes it tough because if you have to come out [away from the plate], it’s going to make your tag a little bit slower,” the manager said. “Kurt’s aware he has to abide by that rule.”
The 10th inning ended with the Royals celebrating; one inning earlier, it was the Twins who were energized by a big play at the plate, foiling a bases-loaded, one-out rally. Molitor inserted Danny Santana for Torii Hunter and had five infielders stationed “to block every hole,” he said. And when Mike Moustakas lifted a medium-depth fly right at center/right fielder Aaron Hicks, it looked as if the strategy was moot, a sacrifice fly all but certain.
But Dusty Coleman, a Royals rookie from Sioux Falls, S.D., who was inserted as a pinch-runner to make his MLB debut, committed a critical gaffe: He stopped between third base and home, allowing the Twins to catch him in a rally-killing rundown.
Tommy Milone started for the Twins, and pitched his fifth straight quality start, holding Kansas City to one run on five hits in six innings and lowering his ERA since returning to the team last month to 1.95. That’s important, given that Ervin Santana returns to the team on Saturday, meaning some starter loses his job, a factor Milone admitted has been on his mind.