The Minnesota Twins struggled against division rivals Kansas City Royals in the three-game series at Target Field. Neither team is contending for the post-season, although the Twins have their sights set on avoiding a second 99-loss season. The series saw injuries affect the Twins’ starting lineup and allowed the team another look at three starters with question marks. For the most part, the results were tough to swallow.
For the Tuesday series opener, the Twins were without Denard Span (shoulder), Chris Parmelee (groin) and Joe Mauer (back). Span had been on the disabled list since August 27, Parmelee was scratched from the lineup the previous day, and Mauer was scratched on Tuesday when back spasms prevented him from taking batting practice. Mauer’s bat was a noticeable absence, as he has hit .425 against KC pitching this season. The Royals took advantage of sloppy defense in the second inning, scoring three runs on the Twins, who tallied a wild pitch, a throwing error, and a potential fly-out that Josh Willingham lost in the lights. The Royals scored one more in the third off of Twins starter Scott Diamond, who went six innings and saw his ERA rise to 3.46. While this has been a breakout season for Diamond, concern has been rising as his ERA continues to rise late in the season. The game then quieted down, with the Royals leading 4-0 until they broke the game open in the eighth, scoring four more. The Twins got on the board in the bottom half of the inning, with Ryan Doumit singling in Jamey Carroll. The Twins gave the run right back in the ninth with on an Eric Hosmer home run but couldn’t get another run across the plate in the home half.
Span returned to the lineup on Wednesday and tripled in his first at bat. Willingham singled him in for an early 1-0 lead for the Twins in the first. They added on two more in the third on a bases-loaded walk and a sacrifice fly. P.J. Walters gave up a solo shot to Salvador Perez in the fourth, which was an otherwise quiet inning. The Royals chased Walters from the game in the fifth, scoring four runs on Walters and a fifth on relief pitcher Anthony Swarzak. Carroll singled in two runs in the bottom half of the inning, bringing the Twins within one of the Royals, for a score of 6-5. The Royals again had a big eighth inning, this time scoring four more, largely helped by a three-error inning for Doumit in left field. This is the first season Doumit has played in left field, and he admits he’s still learning the position. The Twins lost the second game of the series by a final score of 10-5.
Liam Hendriks started the third game of the series, making his 17th major league start and still looking for his first major league win. Mauer was still unavailable, Parmelee was not in the lineup but was available off of the bench, and Doumit was added to the of unavailable players with a sore oblique. The Twins also learned that Cole De Vries is out for the season after sustaining a cracked rib in his start on Saturday. The scoring started early on Thursday, with the Royals scoring two in the top of the first and the Twins countering with a run in the bottom half on a Willingham home run. KC added another run in the fifth on a Billy Butler RBI double. Hendriks exited the game, ending up with a no-decision. The Twins were held in check by Royals’ starter Luis Mendoza, who gave up just two hits and two walks while striking out six in six innings pitched. Both teams were quiet until the eighth, but this time the game got exciting in the home half. With one out, Drew Butera was hit by a pitch. Parmelee was called in to pinch hit for Pedro Florimon, added a single, and was pulled for pinch runner Alexi Casilla. The Royals eventually loaded the bases and walked in a run. Trevor Plouffe tied the game up with a solo bomb in the ninth, and Span had the game-winning hit with an RBI walk-off double in the bottom of the tenth.
The Twins take the season-series from the Royals with an 11-7 record, but starting pitching remains the biggest question moving forward as the front office and the fans begin to look toward the 2013 season.