As the Royals watched the Twins pull away late in Friday night’s series opener, the focus kept coming back to the second inning and right-hander Brady Singer, who exited with a left heel contusion after a line drive struck him to start an unusual double play.
Fortunately for the Royals, they were met with good news after their 9-1 loss at Target Field.
The X-rays came back negative on Singer, whose heel was struck by a 105.5 mph line drive. The ball hit Singer before popping up and into first baseman Carlos Santana’s glove. Singer immediately went down on the mound and looked to be in significant pain while the Royals finished the 1-3-6 double play.
Singer eventually walked off on his own, but he immediately went to the dugout tunnel to start getting treatment.
“I feel good,” Singer said. “It’s a little painful, but the ball hit me in a weird spot, directly on the bottom of the heel. Kind of sent a sensation up my leg, something I’ve really never felt before. It was a weird feeling. I walked off and got some treatment, and I feel pretty good.”
Singer’s cleat took the brunt of the hit, but the sensation he felt in his leg was enough for manager Mike Matheny to end the short start.
“[Head athletic trainer] Nick [Kenny] came out early and said that he felt pretty good about where it was and the fact that there wasn’t a lot of swelling, wasn’t a lot of tissue affected by it because it just hit that spot,” Matheny said. “It hit that nerve pretty hard and just kind of gave him a dead leg.
“I was happy to see him walking around already. It’s a good sign.”
The Royals will monitor Singer’s symptoms and continue treatment, but the right-hander was clear that he didn’t think he’d miss any time getting back to his normal routine between starts.
“I should be totally fine,” Singer said. “I don’t know what we’ll do, but I feel 100 percent ready to go.”
Before the comebacker, Singer was already on the verge of exiting the inning because of his pitch count. After a shutdown first inning against the top of the Twins' order, Singer’s command got away from him in the second. He allowed a leadoff single before striking out Max Kepler looking, but then the Twins loaded the bases with two walks.
Singer hit Luis Arraez in the shoulder to bring in Minnesota’s first run and got into a 3-0 count with Josh Donaldson before he sent the liner back to the mound. Singer threw 15 pitches in the first inning and 33 pitches in the second.
“I wasn’t too mad about [Nelson Cruz’s walk], and then I think I was just trying too hard, honestly,” Singer said. “I got away from what I was doing the last few outings, which is just going right after guys. Trying to be too picky. Got away from my strengths.”
With Singer’s early exit, the Royals were forced to piece together the remainder of the series opener. Right-hander Tyler Zuber came on for the third and allowed back-to-back walks before Twins rookie Alex Kirilloff launched his first career home run.
Then, righty Ervin Santana got Kansas City through four innings with one run allowed -- Kirilloff’s second career home run. Pitching for the first time in 10 days, Santana helped save the bullpen from being overworked in the first of a three-game weekend set.
“Ervin Santana’s the story in that game,” Matheny said. “We have a chance through the rest of this series because of what he was able to do today.”
Santana kept the Royals within striking distance, but the offense wasn’t able to take advantage, and the Twins pulled away in the eighth with four runs off Wade Davis. Carlos Santana launched his team-leading sixth home run of the season, but the Royals ended up stranding four on base.
They didn’t have a hit between the fifth and ninth innings, in part thanks to two run-saving catches by Twins center fielder Byron Buxton. He made a four-star catch, according to Statcast, on Andrew Benintendi’s fly ball in the fifth and then robbed Benintendi of a home run with a leaping catch in the seventh.
“We had a hard time getting really anything going,” Matheny said. “A couple bad luck plays, a couple of really good defensive plays on Benny, both with the [center fielder] coming in and going back. Both really exceptional plays on good swings he had.”
The loss was tough for the first-place Royals, who are looking to widen their lead in the American League Central with their current stretch of 17 consecutive divisional games, but the good news on Singer allowed the club some relief.
“Saw him walking through, and [the trainers are] going to be working on him,” Matheny said. “But all things considered, we’re very fortunate.”