Shoemaker, Twins derailed by KC's 9-run 1st

Right-hander faces 10 batters, yields 8 earned runs before exiting with 1 out

June 5th, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals waited until the fifth inning to bat around against and the Twins in the right-hander’s previous start, but he was afforded no such courtesy this time around.

Kansas City picked right back up in its relentless attack of the Minnesota starter, who faced 10 batters in the first inning -- and retired only one. A three-run blast by Whit Merrifield proved the coup de grâce in the worst outing of Shoemaker’s career, in which he was tagged for nine runs (eight earned), quickly ending the competitive portion of Friday night’s 14-5 loss at Kauffman Stadium -- and continuing to usher away the competitive portion of the Twins’ 2021 season.

“Just an absolute dagger today,” Shoemaker said. “Obviously, the team, we want to win, and personally, that's about the worst you can do. Statistically, it's so unlikely that even happens when you face that many guys. You know, they're bound to get out somehow. It just didn't happen.”

The unfortunate part? Minnesota played much better baseball for the final seven innings, with Miguel Sanó snapping an 0-for-24 funk with a two-run blast and Nick Gordon enjoying the biggest game of his career with three hits and his first big league homer in front of his dad, former MLB pitcher Tom “Flash” Gordon, who was in attendance to watch his son in the Majors for the first time.

But none of that mattered to the outcome, with the game long since out of hand. With the lopsided defeat, the Twins have dropped four in a row and six of their last eight amid one of the softest stretches of their schedule.

Now 13 games out of first place in the American League Central and sporting the second-worst record in the AL as the calendar rushes into June, the Twins still haven’t corrected course off the path toward selling at the Trade Deadline in less than two months.

It’s gotten to the point where manager Rocco Baldelli half-jokingly called Willians Astudillo the “ninth man in the bullpen” after a scoreless eighth, whereas in another world, the Twins might be wondering how to add to that bullpen in preparation for a playoff run.

In his nine big league seasons, Shoemaker had never been unable to complete the first inning -- until Friday. In a dizzying spiral, the Royals tagged him for a single, walk, double, single and a walk before he recorded his first out -- but the parade kept rolling with a catcher’s interference, single and single before Merrifield finally chased Shoemaker with his blast to left field.

“Those are some of the tougher things you’re ever going to watch or be a part of in any kind of baseball game -- big leagues or any kind of game,” Baldelli said.

Now owning an ERA of 7.28 after allowing career highs in runs and earned runs, Shoemaker said after the game that it was difficult for him to deal with the heat in Kansas City, unable to wipe a considerable amount of sweat off his hand and thus losing control of all of his offerings in his 38-pitch outing. He’s yielded 23 runs -- 21 earned -- in eight innings against the Royals this season.

The 34-year-old has felt closer and closer to where he wants to be with his execution, he said, but as the team falls further out of contention with Shoemaker on an expiring contract, there isn’t much time left for a back-end veteran starter like him to make an impact in one direction or another.

He could either boost his possible trade value if the Twins do continue on this trajectory to being sellers, or to make his case to hold that rotation spot with Jhoan Duran, ranked as the No. 5 prospect in the organization by MLB Pipeline, consistently lighting up the radar gun with Triple-A St. Paul.

“There's always a sense of urgency,” Shoemaker said. “You control what you can control, so worrying just makes things worse. I always try to tell people, man, try and worry as least as possible. Because it just makes things a little bit worse. You get in your head a little bit more.”

In 2019, it took until mid-July for the Twins to really begin restructuring their roster, jettisoning three relievers in quick succession before a handful of moves at the Deadline, which means that Shoemaker could still have time to turn his season around.

That could prove important for both him and the team.