Minor sunk by homers in 100th quality start

KANSAS CITY — Mike Minor didn’t make a mistake through three innings Friday night against the Cardinals, but the two he made in the fourth cost him and the Royals the game.

Back-to-back home runs from the Cardinals handed the Royals a 6-0 series-opening loss Friday at Kauffman Stadium, as St. Louis starter Jack Flaherty fashioned a gem against the Kansas City offense in his first start since May.

The Royals managed just two hits in six innings off the right-hander and five total Friday night. They had the bases loaded in the eighth inning, and while Nicky Lopez worked an eight-pitch at-bat against reliever Giovanny Gallegos, the Royals walked away with no runs on the board.

While the two homers from Nolan Arenado and Tyler O’Neill broke up Minor’s no-hit bid with one out in the fourth, the Royals’ lefty did still toss a quality start — and reached a major milestone doing so. It was Minor’s 100th career quality start, and he became the 14th active left-hander to reach 100 for his career, joining names such as Clayton Kershaw (271), Jon Lester (257), Madison Bumgarner (196), Chris Sale (162) and Dallas Keuchel (141).

Minor (8-11) mowed down the Cardinals early on Friday, with five strikeouts through 3 1/3 innings. Arenado was the lone baserunner on a walk in the first before his solo blast in the fourth on a slider that was left hanging in the middle of the plate. O’Neill crushed a changeup in a similar location to straightaway center two pitches later.

That’s when Minor began to labor, throwing 23 pitches in the fourth inning and 26 in the fifth with another run scored on Arenado’s sacrifice fly. But Minor bounced back with a nine-pitch sixth to end his night.

The Cardinals added on against the Royals’ bullpen to hand Kansas City its ninth loss in the last 13 games. Flaherty baffled the Royals’ lineup, keeping it off balance with five strikeouts and weak contact throughout. Salvador Perez’s single in the first inning was the only baserunner until Emmanuel Rivera’s rocket of an infield single in the sixth inning.