There was electricity in the air before Friday night’s game. Boy, was it gone by the time the Royals’ 3-1 victory ended. Here are a handful of extras from a difficult night for the Twins:
Paul Molitor had a difficult choice to make in the third inning, just moments after the Twins had taken a 1-0 lead. Jarryd Dyson led off with one of his two doubles, and he moved to third base on Alcides Escobar’s sacrifice bunt. Bring the infield in? Too early in the game, Molitor decided, especially with the heart of Kansas City’s lineup coming up.
“With the hitters they had coming up, if they get one though the infield, now I’ve got the middle of the order,” Molitor said afterward. “I was willing to give up one.”
The choice was validated, although the tying run scored, when, after Ben Zobrist walked, Eric Hosmer smashed a ball to first base. Joe Mauer fielded it and tried to start a 3-6-1 double play, but the relay from shortstop Eduardo Escobar sailed over pitcher Ervin Santana’s head.
“If Joe’s playing in there, I don’t know if he gets that ball that Hosmer hits,” Molitor said. “It’s a tough call. I’ve tried to cut down a lot of runs early in games this year, but given where they were in the lineup, and the fact that we were ahead, I was going to concede one there.”
He couldn’t know, of course, that the Twins’ offense would go silent for the next five innings.
Molitor was managing as though it was the post-season, which given the Twins’ precarious situtation, it basically was. Best evidence of that: Even though the Twins trailed 3-1, he called upon his interim closer, Kevin Jepsen, to pitch the ninth.
“He’s a horse,” Molitor said of Jepsen, who has converted 10 saves in 11 opportunities since being acquired from Tampa Bay on July 31. “He’s a guy who didn’t get a lot of attention at the trade deadline, but he’s given us everything we’ve asked of him.”
He did Friday, too, though he made his own task more difficult by dropping Mauer’s toss to him while covering first base on Dyson’s grounder to lead off the ninth. But Jepsen finished off the Royals by getting Hosmer and Mike Moustakas to hit foul popups to end the inning. Jepsen has allowed five runs in 28 innings with the Twins, a 1.61 ERA.
Jepsen’s error wasn’t the only misplay of the day for the Twins. Escobar’s relay on the attempted double play in the third inning sailed into the dugout. And in the eighth inning, Moustakas singled sharply to right field, and the ball ricocheted off Torii Hunter’s glove. Ben Zobrist, who had stopped at third base, continued home, giving the Royals (and their sensational bullpen) a two-run cushion to work with.
It was just the fourth time this season that the Twins had committed three errors in a game.
“We made some bad plays defensively,” Hunter admitted. “That’s not us.”