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Twins come up short after Royals' late rally

Cave attempts diving catch, misses on inside-the-park HR
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

KANSAS CITY -- It was the kind of play that could sum up the Twins' season.

Center fielder Jake Cave had good intentions, trying to make a diving catch on a sinking liner from catcher Drew Butera with two out in the seventh, but it skipped past him for a three-run inside-the-park homer to hand the Twins a 5-3 loss on Sunday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium. With three straight defeats to the last-place Royals to open the second half, Minnesota appears destined to sell at the non-waiver Trade Deadline on July 31, trailing the first-place Indians by 9 1/2 games in the American League Central.

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KANSAS CITY -- It was the kind of play that could sum up the Twins' season.

Center fielder Jake Cave had good intentions, trying to make a diving catch on a sinking liner from catcher Drew Butera with two out in the seventh, but it skipped past him for a three-run inside-the-park homer to hand the Twins a 5-3 loss on Sunday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium. With three straight defeats to the last-place Royals to open the second half, Minnesota appears destined to sell at the non-waiver Trade Deadline on July 31, trailing the first-place Indians by 9 1/2 games in the American League Central.

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"Oh goodness. My gracious. The Royals, they played better," manager Paul Molitor said. "It's disappointing. You kind of recharge your mindset and feel good coming back, and come in here and stumble. It's a pretty significant stumble and we'll just have to get on a plane, and you keep playing. That's a given. But it wasn't what we hoped for."

The winning rally was helped by Alex Gordon beating out a double play that would've ended the seventh inning -- although replays showed Gordon might've been out. The Twins, though, couldn't challenge after losing one in the third on a call that was ruled to stand in left field despite replays indicating the ball skipped into Gordon's glove and should've been a single for Cave.

"As soon as they put it on the board, you see the bounce," Molitor said. "But I thought we might be in trouble because of the fact, 'Did it bounce off the fingers of the glove or the ground or a little bit of both? I couldn't tell. It's unfortunate. Not having the replay on the double play later in the game --- when things go against you, those are a couple of really good examples that might have changed the outcome of the game."

After lefty Zach Duke walked Alcides Escobar to put two on with two out, sidearmer Trevor Hildenberger was brought in. He got Butera to hit a shallow line drive, but Cave couldn't come up with it, giving the Royals their first inside-the-park homer by a catcher since Brent Mayne in 1991.

Video: MIN@KC: Butera hits go-ahead inside-the-park 3-run HR

"When I first made the read, I thought I had a chance for it," Cave said. "I was just trying to make a play for my pitcher out there and it went in the wrong direction."

Minnesota's offense was quiet yet again, as Royals right-hander Brad Keller retired the first 10 batters he faced in giving up three runs over seven-plus innings. The Twins scored two runs against Keller in the fourth, keyed by a one-out RBI double from Brian Dozier after Eddie Rosario walked. Logan Morrison, in his return from the disabled list, brought home Dozier with an RBI groundout, beating out a potential double play after a single from Eduardo Escobar.

Video: MIN@KC: Dozier opens scoring with RBI double in 4th

But the lead was short-lived, as the Royals tied it in the fifth against Twins right-hander Jake Odorizzi, thanks to an error from Escobar, who couldn't handle Lucas Duda's grounder to short right field with the shift on. Rosell Herrera followed with a walk and it set the stage for Gordon's game-tying two-run double. Odorizzi, though, stranded Gordon at second by getting a grounder and a popup to end the inning.

"It's not the ideal start, especially the way we finished the first half the way we did on such a high note," Odorizzi said. "We were in all these games, too, we just couldn't find the thing that could get us over the hump. There were a couple things that I'm sure you guys know about that should have gone our way but didn't."

BUSENITZ OPTIONED
The Twins optioned reliever Alan Busenitz after the game to make room for left-hander Adalberto Mejia, who will start on Monday. Busenitz threw a scoreless eighth inning on Sunday to lower his ERA to 6.23 on the season.

SOUND SMART
The Twins are a Major League-worst 7-19 at Kauffman Stadium since 2016. The Royals hadn't recorded a sweep all season heading into the series. Minnesota has now suffered six sweeps of at least three games this season.

HE SAID IT
"I'm glad he went for it. You had a chance to make a play. We had been playing shallow trying to throw a guy out and we moved in a little closer with two strikes. It just was dying. Tried to get there. Tried to make a play. I give him credit, he didn't back off. Took a chance. Butera circles the bases. That's kind of how the series went. Small margins sometimes." -- Molitor, on Cave's diving attempt

UP NEXT
Mejia (0-0, 9.00 ERA) will be recalled from Triple-A Rochester to make his second start of the season at 6:07 p.m. CT in Monday's series opener against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mejia's lone start came in extreme heat at Wrigley Field, as he allowed four runs in four innings on May 30. But he's pitched well at Rochester with a 3.32 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 62 1/3 innings. Toronto's scheduled starter Marco Estrada will instead make a rehab start, so the club is expected to use a bullpen game.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

Minnesota Twins, Brian Dozier, Max Kepler, Jake Odorizzi