Royals rally is too little, too late against the Twins

The Royals pitching staff kept the Minnesota Twins’ deep roster of sluggers from driving the ball out of the ballpark, but the historically homer-happy lineup found other ways to do damage.

Meanwhile the Royals’ bats did minimal damage for seven innings against a ballclub still battling to clinch the AL Central Division crown.

In the eighth, the Royals made some noise. After just four hits in the first seven innings, the Royals smacked three hits in the eighth and took advantage of an error as they scored two runs and made it a one-run game.

But the rally came up short for the Royals as they fell to the Twins 4-3 in front of 29,468 in the second game of their four-game set at Target Field on Friday night.

The Royals (56-99) have dropped four in a row and are now one loss shy of back-to-back 100-loss seasons.

Royals first baseman Ryan McBroom logged his first three-hit game in the majors, and Adalberto Mondesi became the first player in modern MLB history with at least 40 stolen bases and 10 triples in less than 475 plate appearances in a season. Alex Gordon also had a double and two RBIs.

Royals left-hander Eric Skoglund made his third start of the season. Since he’d most recently pitched in relief, he came into the night with a 75-pitch limit.

Skoglund allowed two runs on three hits and one walk in four innings against the ballclub with the highest team batting average and OPS against left-handed pitchers in the American League. Skoglund didn’t record a strikeout, and he also didn’t give up a home run.

“I’m just trying to be efficient,” Skoglund said. “I have implemented my slider. I haven’t had it all year. I threw it for the first time against Houston, and it’s just another pitch to have to keep hitters off-balance. That definitely helps as you get deeper into the game.”

Skoglund allowed both runs in the first inning after a leadoff walk, a double by Jorge Polanco and a sacrifice fly by Nelson Cruz. Miguel Sano also hit a two-out triple to center field.

“I felt strong even from the beginning,” Skoglund said. “I walked the first hitter, which grinds my gears a little. Second guy got a little knock down the line. But other than that, it’s something to build on. Me and (catcher Nick) Dini had something going with a good game plan, and we stuck with it. I wanted to keep going.”

The Twins (95-59) scored two runs in the sixth inning against Royals reliever Scott Barlow on a two-run, two-out double by Marwin Gonzalez.

The Royals trailed 4-1 through seven, but Mondesi reached on a two-base throwing error by Twins third baseman Sano in the eighth. Jorge Soler walked, and Hunter Dozier smacked an RBI single to right field. Dozier, though, got thrown out trying to stretch it into a double.

An RBI ground-out by Gordon drove in the second run of the inning. McBroom and Erick Mejia both singled, but Nicky Lopez grounded out to end the inning and stranded two runners on base.

Twins reliever Trevor May struck out pinch hitter Ryan O’Hearn, Whit Merrifield and Mondesi to end the game and earn his second save.

Twins starter Randy Dobnak (1-1) held the Royals to three hits and one run in 5 1/3 innings. He walked two and struck out five.

“He had run to his fastball. He had some sink to his fastball. He had fastballs that were going two different ways,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of Dobnak. “We thought he had a good slider. He had a real quick arm which had some deception built in, especially on the slider. He commanded his pitches okay.”

Dobnak, who is scheduled to get married next weekend, came into the night having thrown 17 innings in seven appearances in the majors. He hadn’t pitched more than five innings in any of those outings.

However, he’d started 45 of 54 games in the minors. Prior to signing with the Twins in August 2017, Dobnak pitched in an independent minor league. He’d also worked as a stocker at Foodland and as a pizza delivery driver, accounting clerk, consultant for a tax and accounting firm, and as a Lyft and Uber driver.

On Saturday, right-hander Glenn Sparkman (4-11, 6.02 ERA) will start for the Royals, while right-hander Jose Berrios (13-8, 3.58) is scheduled to start for the Twins.

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.