MINNEAPOLIS — Forty percent of the Royals’ rotation now consists of Rule 5 picks.
A few weeks after Brad Keller joined the rotation, fellow Rule 5 pick Burch Smith made his first start on Wednesday against the Twins at Target Field. The results were mixed for Smith in the Royals’ 8-5 loss to Minnesota.
Smith lasted 3 1/3 innings before reaching his pitch count (71). He used his curveball effectively early and registered four strikeouts, though he was nicked for two runs in the second.
But the right-hander stayed on the attack throughout his stint, throwing first-pitch strikes to 14 of 16 hitters.
“He did a really good job with the balls to strikes ratio [71 pitches/52 strikes], was ahead in the count,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He was throwing strikes, which you wanted to see.”
Added Smith, “The plan was to get ahead and stay ahead. I think we did a pretty good job of executing that game plan. A couple of pitches I’d like back, a couple of curveballs that were a little too hittable. I also wish I could have gone deeper in the game so the bullpen didn’t have to cover so many innings. But fairly pleased with the way it went.”
Smith gave up a walk and a single in the fourth with one out, prompting Yost to bring right-hander Glenn Sparkman out of the bullpen.
With a 4-2 lead, Sparkman gave up an RBI double to light-hitting Bobby Wilson (.141 entering the game). But the big play came with two outs when Brian Dozier was fooled on a 1-2 slider but hit a 30-foot dribbler down the third-base line. Sparkman fielded it but threw wildly to first as two runs scored, giving the Twins the lead, 5-4.
“Sparkman came in, kind of hung a changeup there to Wilson,” Yost said, “and then he gave up the dreaded 40-foot base hit to drive in two on a swinging bunt.”
Mike Moustakas hit two home runs for the Royals, Nos. 18 and 19.
Though like the rest of the team, Moustakas slumped in June, he said he really didn’t feel like he lost his stroke.
“When you’re hitting the ball hard and they’re not falling [like in June], you can get some positives out of that because you’re having good at-bats,” Moustakas said. “But obviously results are good, too, and I’m getting more of that now.”
The Royals took a 3-0 lead in the first on Salvador Perez’s 12th home run of the season, a shot to left off a 1-0 two-seam fastball from Lance Lynn.