KANSAS CITY, MO. – The cloudburst that interrupted Friday’s game in Kauffman Stadium was so brief, some of the Twins never left the field. But it was still long enough to ruin Devin Smeltzer’s night.
Smeltzer, the eighth pitcher to start a game in the Twins’ first 14, was encouraged by how well he was commanding his pitches, even though he surrendered a couple of RBI singles. But when a downpour suddenly forced umpires to wave for the tarp — it came and went so quickly, the infield was never actually covered and some Twins players simply stood and waited in foul territory — Smeltzer’s night was abruptly over after only 62 pitches.
Last-place Kansas City then went on to beat the first-place Twins 3-2, getting a sixth-inning home run from Ryan McBroom and solid relief from four relievers over 5⅓ innings.
“It was very frustrating,” Smeltzer said. “Those last two, two-and-a-third innings, it’s the first time I’ve really started to feel myself since we’ve been back. I really felt I could sequence again and locate and throw pitches off other pitches, the way I normally do.”
Instead, the 24-year-old lefthander was left to watch as McBroom, another rookie, crushed a slider from reliever Matt Wisler into the center field seats, breaking the tie and sending the 10-4 Twins, who hit two solo home runs but little else, to their first back-to-back losses of the young season.
“He pitched great to that [brief weather delay]. He pitched a winning-type ballgame,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said of Smeltzer, who gave up an RBI line drive through a pulled-in infield to Nick Heath in the third inning, and a run-scoring grounder up the middle to Nicky Lopez just as the rain arrived. “He mixed his pitches very well with some really good righthanded hitters sitting at the top of that [Kansas City] lineup. For some lefties, that’s a tall order, but he did a great job of it.”
Just not as great as Royals starter Jakob Junis and the Kansas City bullpen, who limited the Twins to five hits, none after the fifth inning. Byron Buxton rocketed a 442-foot homer into the fountain in left-center, his second blast in two days, and Marwin Gonzalez hit a homer to center. But no other Twins player reached third base all night.
The Royals “did bring in some guys that have very live arms, some good stuff, some very sharp breaking balls,” Baldelli said of Kansas City relievers Greg Holland, Josh Staumont, Scott Barlow and new closer Trevor Rosenthal, who earned his second save by pitching a 1-2-3 ninth. “We weren’t able to muster anything up.”
The only bright spot for the Twins after the nine-minute rain delay, half of which was spent waiting for Wisler to warm up, was the outfield defense. But this time, it wasn’t Buxton’s.
With two runners on base, Whit Merrifield launched a Wisler pitch toward the Twins bullpen, but Jake Cave hustled back to the fence, timed his leap, and stole a certain extra-base hit.
“Oh, we owe him dinner for sure,” Smeltzer said. “The whole first part of my outing, the wind was going from center field to third base, and once that rain hit, it turned and switched to blowing out. As an outfielder, that’s so tough when the ball’s getting pushed one way the whole game and now all of a sudden you have to go back and make a big play with the wind being completely different after the delay. That play was incredible and it saved us, big-time.”