KANSAS CITY -- It was nearly the biggest comeback in Twins' history. Instead, it was a second straight frustrating loss to the Royals that saw rookie right-hander Fernando Romero allow eight runs in 1 2/3 innings and the offense come up just short.After a 14-inning walk-off loss on Tuesday, the
KANSAS CITY -- It was nearly the biggest comeback in Twins' history. Instead, it was a second straight frustrating loss to the Royals that saw rookie right-hander Fernando Romero allow eight runs in 1 2/3 innings and the offense come up just short.
After a 14-inning walk-off loss on Tuesday, the Twins were hoping for Romero to pitch deep into Wednesday night's game, but recalled Aaron Slegers as insurance in case Romero turned in the first clunker of his young career. It's a good thing they were cautious, given Romero's short start in an 11-8 loss in the rubber game at Kauffman Stadium.
"He didn't have it," manager Paul Molitor said. "It's kind of the perils of inexperienced starters. He's mostly been good. Tonight was a hiccup for him. We fought, and came close. But it was too big of a mountain."
Romero saw his 1.88 ERA jump to 4.15, and he was replaced by Slegers, who not only ate innings to protect the bullpen, but kept the Twins in the game, surrendering two runs over 5 1/3 frames, only to get optioned back to Rochester after the game. A corresponding roster move will be made on Thursday.
"Just from the beginning, a bad outing," Romero said. "We lost, but we battled out of that hole. I got my mind ready for my next outing. I don't think it was a mechanical thing. I think it was just missing the spots a little bit."
The Twins nearly overcame an early 9-0 deficit, scoring in four straight innings to make it a one-run game in the sixth, but the offense couldn't keep it going and late solo homers from Hunter Dozier and Jorge Soler put the game out of reach. The club record for the largest comeback win is seven runs in 2000 against the Indians.
It was clear Romero didn't have it from the start, walking the first batter he faced on four pitches. It only got worse from there, as he allowed three straight hits, including a two-run double to Mike Moustakas and an RBI single to Salvador Perez. He escaped further trouble that inning, but he ran into plenty in a seven-run second.
Romero gave up back-to-back hits to open the second before allowing a sacrifice fly and getting a groundout to third. But Moustakas hit a towering two-run homer down the right-field line that somehow stayed fair and landed out of the reach of Max Kepler. Romero then gave up a single to Perez and a double to Soler that was originally ruled a two-run homer but was overturned by replay. It didn't matter, however, with Alex Gordon driving him home with a single that knocked Romero from the game.
"I thought the Moustakas homer was the one that hurt the most, because he didn't really hit it that good," Molitor said. "Not that you'd cry sour grapes over it, but that ball just seemed to carry in that corner and crept out. It was deflating."
The Twins tried to chip away with the Royals essentially utilizing a bullpen game started by Brad Keller, but it wasn't enough. They scored once against Keller in three innings, with Miguel Sano ripping an RBI single.
They had more success against reliever Trevor Oaks, scoring three times against him in 1 2/3 innings. Ehire Adrianza had an RBI double in the fourth and the Twins scored twice in the fifth with James Dozier connecting on a solo homer and Eduardo Escobar providing a two-out RBI single. The homer from Dozier was his eighth on the season and his first since May 11.
The Twins also scored four runs charged to reliever Burch Smith in the sixth to make it a one-run game. Adrianza sparked the rally with a solo homer before Sano plated two runs with a double.
"We had a couple at-bats where we could have maybe changed the fortune of the outcome," Molitor said. "We did some good things. We didn't have enough."
Romero is the 10th starting pitcher in Twins history to allow at least eight earned runs in fewer than two innings. The last to do it was Jason Marquis against the Brewers on May 20, 2012. Romero had gone at least five innings in each of his five previous career starts and had never surrendered more than three runs or five hits. It was also the shortest outing by a Twins starter this season.
HE SAID IT
"I was glad I could protect the bullpen a little bit. It wasn't a secret what my job was there -- go as deep as I could and protect the bullpen as much as I could. And I'm glad I did that. It's a shame we didn't pull it out. The bats were scaring them for a little bit, and that was fun to watch." -- Slegers, who was optioned after the game
Right-hander Jake Odorizzi (3-2, 3.34 ERA) will get the ball as the Twins begin a critical four-game series against the American League Central-leading Indians at 7:10 p.m. CT on Thursday at Target Field. Odorizzi has been solid in May, posting a 2.63 ERA in five starts. Righty Shane Bieber is set to make his Major League debut for the Tribe.
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.