Twins come up empty behind Albers
Rookie starter lacks past magic vs. Royals and has little help
MINNEAPOLIS -- It was the bottom of the ninth with two outs and a runner on second on Wednesday night; the Twins were trailing the Royals, 8-1. Chris Herrmann swung, hoping for anything to keep a sputtering offense alive.
He missed. Strike three. Game over.
It was the Twins' 10th and final strikeout of the night, helping set a season record they were approaching all season -- and trying to avoid. Their whiffs Wednesday brought their season total to 1,127, passing the previous high of 1,121, set in 1997.
"It's kind of hard to imagine this many strikeouts," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Trying too hard, whatever you want to call it. I don't know, but we've got a lot of strikeouts, way too many.
"We definitely care about it, because it's not fun. It's not fun watching guys strike out. But they're going to go up there, they're working hard, they're doing everything they possibly can -- it's not like they're trying to strikeout. It is what it is. We really can't do anything about it other than go out there tomorrow and try to put the ball in play and put some better swings on it."
Justin Morneau's home run put the Twins on the board in the ninth, too late to prove consequential en route to a series loss at Target Field with one game to go in the set of three.
Royals starter Danny Duffy fanned the Twins seven times Wednesday, also keeping them scoreless through 6 2/3 innings while allowing five hits.
Where Duffy and the Royals' bullpen excelled on the mound, Salvador Perez buoyed Kansas City's effort at the plate. The catcher went 4-for-5 with a pair of two-run homers for four RBIs. When asked about his night, Perez simply said "that's what I'm supposed to be doing."
"That was fun," Duffy said of his catcher. "I can't say enough about the guy behind the plate. Salvy really killed it. It was just comfortable throwing to him, and it was just as comfortable to throw to George [Kottaras, Aug. 16 in Detroit]. I probably shook four times in the last two starts."
"He was locked in tonight," Twins starter Andrew Albers said of Perez. "He does a good job with the pitch low and away. He's a guy you gotta go in on, and unfortunately I just couldn't get inside on him today. When you don't, he has enough power to make it hurt. And he did a nice job of that tonight."
While he kept Minnesota in the game, Albers had a rougher go of it than Duffy, giving up three runs (two earned) on six hits with two strikeouts over seven innings.
The Royals became the first team to face Albers twice in his Major League career, and they were not fooled by him this time around. Following Albers' big league debut of 8 1/3 scoreless innings four starts ago in Kansas City, the Royals had two home runs off him in Wednesday night's rematch.
"I felt pretty good about it," Albers said. "Unfortunately, I made a few mistakes they made me pay for. That's how it goes sometimes. Sometimes you get away with them, and sometimes you don't. There were a couple pitches tonight where they were where they shouldn't be. I left a cutter up and a fastball over the plate in situations where that can't happen, and they took advantage of them and made me pay."
With two outs in the third, Alex Gordon blasted a solo shot to right center to put the Royals up, 1-0.
An inning later, Perez hopped on the first pitch for a two-run homer to the left-field bleachers. The hit also scored Billy Butler, who reached on a Trevor Plouffe throwing error at first.
The Royals extended their lead to 6-0 in the eighth off right-handed reliever Casey Fien. Perez dropped his second home run of the game into the bullpen in left-center, also scoring Butler. The designated hitter reached safely just ahead of Perez with an RBI base hit to right center, scoring Eric Hosmer, who reached on a double.
Kansas City added two more runs in the top of the ninth after loading the bases with no outs on two straight hits and a walk. Butler dropped a soft grounder toward third that Twins reliever Anthony Swarzak did not field for the out. The play allowed Gordon, who led off the inning, to score. Emilio Bonifacio tagged home on the following play as Perez hit into a double play, making it 8-0.
The Twins' offense was all but nonexistent. Despite Minnesota's six hits, Pedro Florimon was the only Twin besides Morneau to get as far as second base -- a task he accomplished twice on stolen bases.
"They're whacking us pretty good," Gardenhire said of the Royals. "They're a confident baseball team, and they're in a pennant race. They're coming in and swinging and playing well and making all the plays you're supposed to. You give them too much breathing room, and they'll get you."