“Flirt” is such a funny word. It suggests teasing, seducing, stringing you along and making you think there’s a chance — but ultimately crushing those hopes.
Chris Young should have the word embroidered on his glove. Maybe tattooed on his pitching arm.
The Royals veteran righthander looked like the ultimate tease Tuesday night, using a selection of seductive-looking sliders and below-the-speed-limit fastballs to flirt with a no-hitter while also occasionally flirting with game-changing disaster. But in the end, his mastery of deception, of unpredictability and especially of the strike zone, left the Twins as the frustrated suitors, crumpled in disbelief at their inability to resist his tease.
Minnesota managed only one hit, a Trevor Plouffe triple that broke up Young’s masterpiece only eight outs from consummation, and even then, couldn’t drive that run across the plate in a 2-0 shutout. Young and four K.C. relievers combined for the third one-hitter in Target Field history and knocked the Twins out of first place.
“He kind of has the ability to expand the [strike] zone just a little bit. He gets you to chase,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “There weren’t really a lot of patterns to what he was doing.”
Well, except for getting hitters out. Young faced only two batters over the minimum before Plouffe — mired in a 1-for-30 June slump at the time — came to the plate in the seventh inning, with the crowd growing restless amid the possibility of seeing the first no-hitter in Target Field history. Young had had help — Kansas City’s defense made its usual quota of great defensive plays, the best being Alex Gordon’s robbery of a potential Torii Hunter home run — and could sense that good fortune was on his side.
“I got lucky a little bit. The guys made great plays. It’s a good-hitting team, and they hit some balls hard,” Young said. “The results were probably better than the way I pitched, but that’s baseball.”
Young missed with two sliders before coming down the middle with an 86-miles-per-hour fastball that Plouffe hammered the other way. It bounced high off the green wall in right field, fair by 10 feet, and ricocheted over right fielder Alex Rios’ head as Plouffe rounded second. Rios recovered in time to make the play at third reasonably close, but the throw was offline.
These being the Royals, who have turned defense-and-bullpen into an art form, manager Ned Yost immediately pulled Young and turned the game over to his lockdown bullpen, with the usual results. Plouffe was stranded on third, and the shutout was secured two innings later.
Almost overlooked in the no-hit nervousness was Trevor May, whose own no-hitter was broken up by the first batter he faced in the game. Escobar led off the game with a double, Mike Moustakas singled him home, and the Royals had all the lead they’d need.
May couldn’t match Young’s 1-2-3 efficiency, but he matched all the zeros, with help from Aaron Hicks. With Kendrys Morales on third base and no outs in the sixth, Rios drove a ball to medium center field. Hicks caught it and fired a perfect two-hop throw to Suzuki to easily beat Morales.
“That’s as excited as I’ve been in a long time,” May said of the play. But the excitement didn’t last. Flirting never does.