Twins’ second half starts miserably with sweep by Royals

Published 4:37 pm Sunday, July 22, 2018

KANSAS CITY – And that should just about end any realistic chances of the Twins turning around their season.

Matched up with a Royals team with the second worst record in baseball, the Twins offered up not one, not two but three consecutive unacceptable clunkers – with Sunday’s 5-3 loss the most damaging of the three.

Email newsletter signup

Tied 2-2 in the seventh, centerfielder Jake Cave made valiant effort to run in and make a diving catch of Drew Butera’s sinking line drive.

But he missed the ball.

And that led to a three-run inside the park homer that sent the Royals into a series sweep and sent the Twins spinning out of town. After winning nine of 11 games prior to the All-Star break, the Twins hoped to maintain momentum and figure out a way to creep into the AL Central race.

After three straight losses against the lowly Royals, how can the Twins be taken seriously? They fall to 44-53 and could trail the Indians by 101/2 games in the division before the day is over, depending on how Cleveland does against Texas this afternoon.

They lost 6-5 on Friday and 4-2 on Saturday, so they knew they needed Sunday’s game to salvage something from the series before heading to Toronto and Boston for the remainder of their road trip. Royals righthander Brad Keller made that difficult, as he pitched into the eighth inning.

The Twins did take a 2-0 lead in the fourth and had a chance close the Royals down, but Kansas City scored twice in the fifth to tie the game.

Twins righthander Jake Odorizzi bounced back with a nice outing, holding the Royals to two runs over six innings before leaving the game. Zach Duke began the seventh and got two outs, but also gave up a single and a walk. So Twins manager Paul Molitor brought in Trevor Hildenberger to face the .164 hitting former Twin, Butera.

With the count 2-2, Hildenberger threw his trusty changeup, but Butera got the barrel on it and send a sinking liner out to center field. Cave broke in on the ball and attempted a diving catch, but the ball skipped by him and rolled to the wall. It was off to the races for the Royals. Max Kepler retrieved the ball at the wall, but by the time the relay throw came in, Butera had slid in safely with a three-run, inside the park home run to put Kansas City ahead 5-2. Butera became the first Royals catcher since Brent Mayne 1991 to hit an inside the park home run. Kepler hit a solo home run in the eighth to make it 5-3. But Wily Peralta, pitching on his third consecutive day, worked the ninth for the save.

While Butera was being doused with water during the postgame interview, Twins relievers walked in slowly from the bullpen.