Royals manager Mike Matheny has talked often about the need for his team to win in different ways, and the one manner of victory he has been searching for is a late rally from behind.
That still hasn’t happened after Kansas City’s 4-2 loss to the Twins at Target Field on Sunday, though the Royals certainly had chances.
The biggest one came in the sixth inning, when Whit Merrifield singled and Nicky Lopez walked with one out.
Then on a 3-2 pitch with the runners going, Hunter Dozier lined one to short left that Statcast estimated had an expected batting average of .840. But Twins left fielder Eddie Rosario raced in and made a sliding catch, then was easily able to double off Merrifield at second.
“We had to kind of go for broke there,” Matheny said, “and unfortunately they made a good play.”
The game ended with tempers flaring a bit. Royals players and coaches apparently were fuming at Twins closer Sergio Romo, who barked words at their bench after the final out.
Kansas City was not pleased with a first-pitch strike call to Lopez in the ninth, a pitch that appeared outside. Romo may have then been upset, according to some Royals players, when K.C.’s bench suggested to home-plate umpire John Bacon that a different pitch to Jorge Soler was not only outside but low as well.
“Without fans you can hear a lot of stuff and he may have heard something [we said to the umpire],” Lopez said. “There was a ball called that was a little down and we said it was down, and he may have thought we were talking to him. I don’t think we said anything out of line.”
Matheny agreed, “A little taunting going on. I think what you’re seeing is the result of being able to hear everything each bench says. Can’t take emotions out of this game, either. A little taunting to our side, and the boys didn’t like it a whole lot.”
Meanwhile, Royals rookie right-hander Brady Singer made two crucial mistakes to No. 9 hitter Alex Avila that tainted a mostly solid outing. He went 5 2/3 innings and gave up four hits and three runs.
Singer threw a career-high 100 pitches, mostly fastballs (59), and he didn’t have the same changeup he had last Sunday at Kauffman Stadium, when he earned his first career win against the Twins. This time, Singer threw eight changeups, got no swings on it and just one called strike.
Still, Singer’s outing could have looked different if he had had better results against Avila, who fell behind 0-2 in the third inning but then walked. Avila went to second on a wild pitch, third on a balk, and scored on a groundout.
The fifth inning was the killer for Singer. He walked Avila on four pitches to lead off the inning, then left a 1-0 fastball in the middle to Max Kepler, who smacked a go-ahead two-run homer to right.
“I think he just keeps getting better, with the movement on the ball and learning the league,” Matheny said. “They just saw him [last Sunday], and he can mix up his looks. He only fell into a pattern one time and that was to Kepler, and that ball just came back into the zone. Kepler was waiting on it.”
“I keep saying it’s just one or two mistakes a game,” Singer added. “I’m still learning each and every time. Other than that, I felt really good.”
The Royals had taken an early lead on solo homers from Dozier, his first this season, and Alex Gordon, who snapped an 0-for-15 skid, but that was all the offense Kansas City could muster.