Royals

The Royals lose 4-2 to Twins as defense, Herrera collapse in ninth

Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar on dropped pop-up: 'Nobody called the ball'

A dropped pop-up at the third-base line cost the Royals in a 4-2 loss to the Twins at Kauffman Stadium on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar and left fielder Alex Gordon both went after it.
Up Next
A dropped pop-up at the third-base line cost the Royals in a 4-2 loss to the Twins at Kauffman Stadium on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar and left fielder Alex Gordon both went after it.

A baseball hung in the air on Thursday night, floating out toward shallow left field at Kauffman Stadium, and in a moment, everything the Royals once were, every facet that helped them become champions, would start to crumble.

The once all-world defense would lapse, undone by a harmless fly ball between the left fielder and shortstop. Closer Kelvin Herrera, once a leading man in a dominant bullpen, could not protect a one-run lead.

The result was a 4-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins that felt like a season-defining moment, a late collapse that pierced a hole in the Royals’ faint playoff hopes.

“This is a tough one,” Royals left fielder Alex Gordon said, sitting in a quiet clubhouse.

In the pivotal moments, Herrera was nicked for three runs while blowing his fourth save in 30 opportunities this season. The decisive mistake came on a shallow pop fly that fell between Gordon and shortstop Alcides Escobar near the left-field line.

With a runner on first base and one out in the ninth, Minnesota’s Jason Castro lifted a ball down the left-field line. Given the velocity off the bat and the trajectory of the ball, MLB.com’s Statcast system would give the play a “hit probability” of 1 percent. As the ball hung in the air, the projection appeared accurate.

Escobar gave chase, sprinting toward the line. So did Gordon, who was playing deep in a no-doubles alignment. In the final moments, Gordon appeared to slow down, giving way to Escobar, who kept running and was left to make an awkward, over-the-shoulder catch. The ball eluded his grasp. The Twins had two runners aboard with one out. The inning was skidding toward disaster.

“I think it would have been a tough play for either of us,” Gordon said. “We both looked at each other, and Esky went for it. I thought he was going to have it — typical Esky play. But he kind of got turned around.

“It was probably a ball I probably should have took. That’s the bottom line.”

Escobar would say that neither he nor Gordon called for the ball. It was placed in a difficult spot. So he kept chasing after it, waiting to hear Gordon’s voice.

“I think right there Gordo told me, ‘I can grab the ball,’’” Escobar said, replaying the moment in his head. “I said, ‘I can get that ball, too.’ You know what — that happened and it was a base hit.”

When the night was over, Minnesota's Brian Dozier had tied the game on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly and Jorge Polanco had delivered a two-run single to center field. Herrera, who was making his first appearance since missing time for a strain in his lower forearm, suffered through another shaky performance, allowing two other hits beside the soft single. This time, there was no Scott Alexander to bail him out. Alexander had recorded five important outs in the sixth and seventh.

“It lined up the way we wanted it to line up,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.

The Royals, once in position for a momentous win, tumbled back below .500 at 69-70, 3 1/2 games behind the Twins in the American League wild-card race. The loss delivered a two-game swing in the standings as a four-game series commenced between two division rivals.

“All these games matter right now, especially against a team that we’re trying to climb into it with,” Gordon said. “It definitely hurts, especially having the game.”

Royals manager Ned Yost was pleased with the work of new Royals pitcher Sam Gaviglio, who allowed one run in five innings in what became a 4-2 loss to the Twins on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, at Kauffman Stadium.

Before the ninth, the formula had been effective.

Just six days after being claimed off waivers from Seattle, rookie starter Sam Gaviglio allowed one run in five innings for the Royals, delivering the goods in a spot start for the injured Danny Duffy.

For five innings, Gaviglio upstaged Minnesota’s Kyle Gibson. Gordon and Whit Merrifield produced RBI singles in the fifth. Kansas City positioned itself for a victory and a crowding of the wild-card standings.

Fifty-one days had passed since Gaviglio’s last major-league start for Seattle. On that day in Houston, he had surrendered five earned runs and eight hits in six innings as his ERA jumped to 4.62. A few days later, he was optioned to Class AAA Tacoma, where he remained until last Friday.

As the Tacoma Rainiers landed at the Las Vegas airport in the afternoon, Gaviglio checked his phone, which had blown up with messages. In an unexpected move, he had been claimed off waivers by the Royals, a team still on the fringes of the wild-card race, but in desperate need of pitching.

Four hours later, Gaviglio caught a flight to Minneapolis and joined up with his new team. When he arrived, he was given simple instructions. He was headed to the bullpen. But he needed to be prepared to start.

The opportunity came on Thursday as the Royals returned to Kauffman Stadium for a four-game series against the Twins. On a pleasant evening in September, Gaviglio toed the rubber and seized control, vexing the Twins with his brand of command-and-control stuff. He nearly played the role of hero.

Gaviglio’s only costly mistake came on a 3-2 slider to Robbie Grossman in the top of the fifth. The baseball landed in the visitors bullpen in right field and gave the Twins a 1-0 lead.

Yost turned the game over to his bullpen in the sixth, but not before the offense struck for two runs against Gibson in the bottom of the fifth.

Escobar opened the flurry with a double to right field. Gordon drove in the first run with an RBI single to right field. He would move to second, and he then scored on a single from Merrifield.

The play was close. The throw from Minnesota right fielder Max Kepler beat Gordon to the plate. But Castro, the Twins’ catcher, could not hold onto the ball as Gordon dived headfirst to the plate. After an awkward collision, the ball skipped away. Gordon reached back toward the plate to score the go-ahead run.

The Kansas City bullpen would soon take over. Alexander offered 1 2/3 innings before handing the baton to Peter Moylan. Mike Minor worked around traffic in the top of the eighth, aided by a strong play by third baseman Ramon Torres and a terrific pick from first baseman Eric Hosmer.

The Royals needed just three outs for a victory. Herrera jogged in from the bullpen and allowed a leadoff single to Kepler. Moments later, a ball left Castro’s bat and skied into shallow left field. It should have been caught. But it was not.

“I thought it was gonna be a tough play,” Yost said.

“We both didn’t call it,” Gordon said.

“It was a little bit difficult for me because I had my back to home plate,” Escobar said. “I never got behind the ball. If I had seen the ball, I’d call the ball. At the last moment, I tried to dive and I dropped the ball.”

Twins 4, Royals 2

Minnesota AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Dozier 2b

4

0

0

1

0

1

.260

Mauer 1b

3

0

3

0

2

0

.306

Polanco ss

3

0

2

2

1

0

.262

Rosario lf

5

0

1

0

0

2

.285

Buxton cf

5

0

0

0

0

1

.249

Kepler rf

3

1

1

0

1

0

.247

E.Escobar 3b

4

0

0

0

0

2

.253

Castro c

4

0

2

0

0

1

.230

1-Granite pr

0

1

0

0

0

0

.231

Gimenez c

0

0

0

0

0

0

.206

Grossman dh

3

2

1

1

1

0

.248

Totals 34

4

10

4

5

7

Kansas City AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Merrifield 2b

4

0

2

1

0

0

.286

Cain cf

4

0

1

0

0

0

.297

Cabrera rf

4

0

1

0

0

0

.296

Orlando rf

0

0

0

0

0

0

.175

Hosmer 1b

3

0

2

0

1

0

.317

Perez c

4

0

0

0

0

0

.263

Moustakas dh

3

0

0

0

0

0

.278

A.Escobar ss

3

1

1

0

0

0

.243

Gordon lf

3

1

2

1

0

0

.200

Torres 3b

3

0

0

0

0

0

.239

Totals 31

2

9

2

1

0

Minnesota

000

010

003

4

10

0

Kansas City

000

020

000

2

9

0

1-ran for Castro in the 9th.

LOB: Minnesota 10, Kansas City 4. 2B: Mauer (31), Polanco (28), A.Escobar (28). HR: Grossman (9), off Gaviglio. RBIs: Dozier (81), Polanco 2 (62), Grossman (38), Merrifield (66), Gordon (39). SB: Kepler (6). CS: A.Escobar (5). SF: Dozier. S: Polanco.

Runners left in scoring position: Minnesota 8 (Polanco, Rosario, Buxton 5, E.Escobar); Kansas City 2 (Cain, Perez). RISP—Minnesota 2 for 10; Kansas City 2 for 6. Runners moved up: Torres. GIDP: Grossman, Cain, Perez, Moustakas, Torres. DP: Minnesota 4 (Dozier, Polanco, Mauer), (Dozier, Polanco, Mauer), (Gibson, Polanco, Mauer), (Dozier, Mauer); Kansas City 1 (Torres, Merrifield, Hosmer).

Minnesota

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Gibson

7

8

2

2

1

0

95

5.19

Hildenberger W, 3-2

1

1

0

0

0

0

6

2.43

Belisle S, 6

1

0

0

0

0

0

14

4.44

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Gaviglio

5

4

1

1

3

3

77

4.41

Alexander

1 2/3

1

0

0

0

1

15

2.12

Moylan

 1/3

0

0

0

0

0

4

3.83

Minor

1

1

0

0

0

1

14

2.82

Herrera L, 3-3

 2/3

3

3

3

2

1

22

4.24

Maurer

 1/3

1

0

0

0

1

15

6.11

Holds: Alexander (7), Moylan (20), Minor (15). Blown save: Herrera (4). Inherited runners-scored: Maurer 2-0. HBP: Gibson (Moustakas).

Umpires: Home, Chris Segal; First, Joe West; Second, Andy Fletcher; Third, Alan Porter. Time: 2:56. Att: 26,485.

Related stories from Kansas City Star

  Comments