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Smith's 1st start falls short as Twins take series

Moustakas blasts a pair of HRs in back-and-forth loss
MLB.com @FlannyMLB

MINNEAPOLIS -- Forty percent of the Royals' rotation now consists of Rule 5 picks.

A few weeks after Brad Keller joined the rotation, fellow Rule 5 pick Burch Smith made his first start on Wednesday against the Twins at Target Field. The results were mixed for Smith in the Royals' 8-5 loss to Minnesota.

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Forty percent of the Royals' rotation now consists of Rule 5 picks.

A few weeks after Brad Keller joined the rotation, fellow Rule 5 pick Burch Smith made his first start on Wednesday against the Twins at Target Field. The results were mixed for Smith in the Royals' 8-5 loss to Minnesota.

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Smith lasted 3 1/3 innings before reaching his pitch count (71). He used his curveball effectively early and registered four strikeouts, though he was nicked for two runs in the second.

But the right-hander stayed on the attack throughout his stint, throwing first-pitch strikes to 14 of 16 hitters.

"He did a really good job with the balls to strikes ratio [71 pitches/52 strikes], was ahead in the count," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He was throwing strikes, which you wanted to see."

Added Smith, "The plan was to get ahead and stay ahead. I think we did a pretty good job of executing that game plan. A couple of pitches I'd like back, a couple of curveballs that were a little too hittable. I also wish I could have gone deeper in the game so the bullpen didn't have to cover so many innings. But fairly pleased with the way it went."

Video: KC@MIN: Smith fans Rosario in the top of the 1st

Smith gave up a walk and a single in the fourth with one out, prompting Yost to bring right-hander Glenn Sparkman out of the bullpen.

With a 4-2 lead, Sparkman gave up an RBI double to light-hitting Bobby Wilson (.141 entering the game). But the big play came with two outs when Brian Dozier was fooled on a 1-2 slider but hit a 30-foot dribbler down the third-base line. Sparkman fielded it but threw wildly to first as two runs scored, giving the Twins the lead, 5-4.

"Sparkman came in, kind of hung a changeup there to Wilson," Yost said, "and then he gave up the dreaded 40-foot base hit to drive in two on a swinging bunt."

Mike Moustakas hit two home runs for the Royals, Nos. 18 and 19.

Though like the rest of the team, Moustakas slumped in June, he said he really didn't feel like he lost his stroke.

"When you're hitting the ball hard and they're not falling [like in June], you can get some positives out of that because you're having good at-bats," Moustakas said. "But obviously results are good, too, and I'm getting more of that now."

The Royals took a 3-0 lead in the first on Salvador Perez's 12th home run of the season, a shot to left off a 1-0 two-seam fastball from Lance Lynn.

Video: KC@MIN: Perez clubs a 3-run homer to left-center

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Royals wasted a chance for a big inning in the sixth. Two hit batters and a walk loaded the bases with none out. But reliever Ryan Pressly struck out Adalberto Mondesi on three pitches -- the last two were curveballs in the dirt that Mondesi chased. Pressly then got a break when he got a called third strike on Drew Butera on a fastball that appeared well out of the zone and high. Pressly ended the threat by inducing Whit Merrifield to fly out to right.

Video: KC@MIN: Pressly get out of bases-loaded jam in 6th

HE SAID IT
"It was special. Meant a lot to do it again. Had a lot of emotions going into the game." -- Smith, on making his first big league start since 2013 when he was with San Diego

UP NEXT
After an off-day Thursday, the Royals head to Chicago to play the White Sox in a three-game set starting Friday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Right-hander Keller (2-3, 2.52 ERA) takes the mound for the Royals. Keller gave up four runs and five walks (both career highs) over 4 2/3 innings in a 15-4 loss to Boston last Saturday. Former Royals pitcher James Shields (3-10, 4.53) will start for the White Sox.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

Kansas City Royals, Mike Moustakas, Burch Smith