A Royal failure by the Twins at home
By Gordon Wittenmyer
Knight Ridder Newspapers
MINNEAPOLIS -- Doing his part to keep alive hallowed baseball tradition, Twins broadcaster Bert Blyleven mooned the entire Minnesota Twins baseball team Wednesday afternoon as it assembled for the annual team photo.
The gesture was about six hours premature.
In fact, by the end of the Kansas City Royals' 8-3 victory at the Metrodome in one of the most anticipated games of the past two months, it was the Twins who were caught with their pants down.
They gave up five home runs. They drew three walks in one inning, but none of the runners scored. Their starting pitcher lasted only 51⁄3; innings. Eight opponents batted in a five-run inning. And nobody seemed to know how to deal with Carlos Beltran.
Other than that, the Twins put on a great show for 24,193 locals and a national TV audience in the opener of a two-game series against first-place Kansas City.
"This was pretty much the Royals' night. They did everything right tonight," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Except for the fact they walked eight Twins and hit another. The Twins knocked home one of those runs.
Except for the fact they committed the only error of the game, allowing Matt LeCroy to take second on a one-out single in the eighth. He didn't score either.
And except for the fact Royals starting pitcher Jeremy Affeldt was in trouble almost every minute he was on the mound, fighting a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand and spending 94 pitches to get through five innings. Yet the Twins couldn't score against him.
"It was just one of those days where it's a true baseball game--you get your butt whooped," said Twins center fielder Torii Hunter, who banged his shoulder and skinned his face--for the second time in a week--making a diving catch in the second inning.
"Nothing a little Advil won't take care of," he said of the achy body.
The sting of Wednesday's missed opportunities might take more than that.
Since winning their first five games after the all-star break and shaving two games off the Royals' lead in the American League Central, the Twins have lost two straight, giving back one of those games Wednesday to fall back to 6 1⁄2; games behind.
After winning 13 of 19 meetings against Kansas City last season, the Twins fell to 3-8 against them this season, stumbling to an inauspicious start to what might be the most critical stretch this season--a 31-game span that includes 24 games against divisional opponents.
"We've got to get a win (today)," Hunter said. "It's a must."
The disappointing performance was hard to deny, made worse by Tuesday's loss to Seattle in which the Twins blew a 7-3 lead.
"I couldn't even sleep last night because of that," Hunter said. "It wouldn't be so bad if we didn't lose today."