As of Wednesday morning, the Minnesota Twins are 11-34 and last in the American League Central. Their pitching staff has the highest ERA in the league, they’ve given up more runs than any other team in the league and no AL pitching staff has allowed a higher batting average by their opponents. Meanwhile, the Twins offense has scored fewer runs than any other American League team.
No wonder the Twins have lost more games than any team in baseball.
Fans tend to get excited about a series against a good team, but a series against a team that’s scuffling might be more important: it’s where you build your record and get well. The Royals won the first two games of the Minnesota series, so what’s the problem?
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When you play bad teams you can make mistakes and still win. But if you walk away thinking that everything’s OK because you won and then make the same mistakes against a good team, there’s a decent chance you’ll lose. So you want to get those mistakes cleaned up quickly.
How the Royals gave three runs away
With the Royals leading 6-1 in the bottom of the fourth Tuesday, Edinson Volquez walked Robbie Grossman with two outs. When you have a five-run lead you don’t want to walk anybody. If Babe Ruth came back from the dead and hit a baseball 500 feet, they’d only let him run around the bases one time. (And after that, the Babe would probably have to take a urine test because dead guys should not have that kind of power.)
Next, Volquez hit Oswaldo Arcia with a pitch and that pushed Grossman into scoring position. Eduardo Escobar singled, Paulo Orlando made an error, the ball got past him in right field and both runs scored. Through no fault of their own, the Twins were back in the game; the score was 6-3.
But the Royals weren’t done giving runs away.
Volquez started the fifth inning by walking the No. 9 hitter, Danny Santana. There’s a theory that 9-hole hitters are hitting there for a reason and you ought to make them swing the bat; but Santana walked and crossed home plate two singles later.
The score was 6-4 and three of those four Minnesota runs got on by a walk or hit by pitch. The Royals’ pitching was keeping the Twins in the game.
Even Wade Davis had trouble throwing strikes. He came out to close the game in the ninth, gave up a double and then walked two batters to put the tying run on base and the winning run at home plate. But Davis made an adjustment and got out of the bases-loaded jam.
Even though they won, the Royals need to clean things up
The Twins would not have been in this game if Royals pitchers threw more strikes and that’s not a new problem. The Royals have walked more batters than any other team in the American League and when those walks come around to score that can mean trouble.
Don’t misunderstand: big-league pitchers often use walks to their advantage — if a guy is hot and can do damage, pitch around him.
But when you have a multi-run lead and the man at the plate can’t hurt you, throw strikes. The Royals have supplied their pitchers with Gold Glove level defense — the pitchers ought to use it as often as possible.
The Royals play one more game against the Twins on Wednesday afternoon and then start a four-game series with the first-place White Sox. Gift the White Sox with three runs (and when the heck did “gift” become a verb?) and you might not get away with it.