Posts Tagged ‘Kansas City Royals’

Capps allows two-run shot as Twins fall

July 15, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins’ closer controversy doesn’t look like it’s going away any time soon.

After a quick eighth inning by Joe Nathan, closer Matt Capps entered with the Twins holding a one-run lead. Capps opened the ninth with a four-pitch walk before retiring the next two batters.

Capps got ahead of Eric Hosmer, but Hosmer crushed his next offering off the batter’s eye in center field, and the Twins lost, 2-1, to the Royals.

“Any time you’re facing a good closer like Capps, especially with a good fastball like his, you’ve got to try to jump on it early,” Hosmer said. “The first one didn’t work out as planned, so I told myself, ‘Just step out and relax. Just take a deep breath.'”

The first pitch from Capps was a 92-mph fastball up in the zone, which Hosmer swung and missed at.

With the home crowd on its feet cheering for Capps with two outs, he tried to come back with the same thing. But Capps’ location was not as good the second time, and Hosmer hit it 421 feet to dead center field.

“Same thing, yeah. Just ran back over the plate, and he was able to get it,” Capps said. “I don’t know. Maybe he was looking up there after swinging through it, too, but whatever happened it wasn’t good for us. For me, us.”

It was Capps’ seventh blown save of the season, and his fourth straight bad outing at home. Capps recorded saves in the Twins’ last two wins in Chicago before the All-Star break, but that success did not carry over upon returning to Target Field.

“We scored one run tonight. In defense of [Capps], we scored one run, we had plenty of opportunities to score more runs,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. “Everything gets thrown on the closer. Sure, he gave it up at the end, but a lot of people misfired, too.

“So, let’s not cut him down too awful much here. The young man’s a very good pitcher and our closer. We give him the ball and we have all the trust in the world in him. He didn’t get it done tonight, that’s all that happened.”

After being retired in order the first time through the lineup, the Twins broke through for their only run in the fourth as leadoff hitter Ben Revere singled, stole second, and eventually scored on a wild pitch.

The Twins threatened again in the sixth and seventh, but Royals starter Luke Hochevar pitched out of both jams. Revere tripled to right with one out in the sixth — and did not even miss a beat as he did an accidental somersault between second and third — but the Twins could not drive in the run.

“I thought I was going to be on ‘Not Top 10’ for a second, but then I looked at the third baseman, and he was still kind of waving to get the ball in,” Revere said. “Luckily it went pretty good at that. It’s not the first time I’ve done that [stumbled] either, so I need to quit doing that.”

Hochevar finished with one run allowed on just three hits over seven innings, with four strikeouts.

He also walked three batters, but two were intentional passes to catcher Joe Mauer, a strategy that paid off twice as Hochevar retired All-Star right fielder Michael Cuddyer after each one.

Before Capps gave the game back to the Royals, the story of the night was Nick Blackburn, who was brilliant in his first outing of the second half.

Blackburn tossed seven scoreless innings, allowing four hits and two walks, while striking out three batters. He outdueled Hochevar, delivering his best start in nearly a month.

It was the first time since June 22 that Blackburn allowed three or fewer runs. Blackburn had been 1-1 with a 12.15 ERA over his last three starts, giving up 18 earned runs in 13 1/3 innings pitched.

“Everything was just down. That hasn’t been the case for probably the last four or five starts,” Blackburn said. “Today my fastball was below the knees more often than it has been in a long time.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Indians beat 4/23

April 23, 2011 Comments off

Hannahan embracing his return home

By Jordan Schelling /

MINNEAPOLIS — If anyone was more disappointed about Friday’s rainout than Indians third baseman Jack Hannahan, they were probably one of the hundreds of family and friends that came to watch him play.Hannahan, a 31-year-old St. Paul, Minn., native, is playing in the Twin Cities this weekend for just the second time since he was drafted out of the University of Minnesota in 2001. With more than 100 friends and family expected for each game, Hannahan ran into a little more trouble getting tickets at Target Field than at the Twins’ old ballpark, the Metrodome.”Any chance I get to come home and play in front of my family and friends and sleep in my own bed, it’s nice,” Hannahan said. “From growing up here and going to high school and college here, a lot of coaches, friends and relatives are coming out.”

Hannahan last faced the Twins in 2009 in Oakland. His last games at the Metrodome came on Aug. 18-19, 2008, when Hannahan went 2-for-8 with a double and an RBI in the series.

While they didn’t get to play Friday, Hannahan made sure his teammates got a taste of the Twin Cities in the clubhouse. A few hours before the game’s scheduled start, Hannahan had “Juicy Lucy” cheeseburgers brought in from Shamrock’s in St. Paul, a Twin Cities specialty.

While others claim to have invented the burger with cheese inside the patty rather than on top, Hannahan says Shamrock’s makes them the best, though he may be a little biased.

“I got the boys locked in on it,” Hannahan said. “I usually do it anytime I come in here. I tell these guys it’s the best Juicy Lucy they’ll ever taste, so I always bring in 30 of them.

“Mikey Runyon and Teddy Casper, who I graduated with at Cretin, they own it. They always hook me up and bring it in for the boys.”

As Hannahan referenced, he attended high school at Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul, which also is the alma mater of Twins catcher Joe Mauer and Hall of Famer Paul Molitor.

While Hannahan’s teammates, especially the pitching staff, may be glad to see Mauer out of the lineup this weekend, it’s a bit disappointing for Hannahan that he won’t get to see a familiar face behind the plate when he goes to bat.

“We never played together, but I graduated with Billy, his middle brother, and then Jake was a year older than me, so I played with those guys growing up,” Hannahan said. “I haven’t talked to Joe since I’ve been home, but we text throughout the year and I get to see him in the offseason.

“Hopefully he can heal up. I heard he’s pretty banged up, but Joey’s a tough guy. Hopefully he’ll be able to get back out on the field soon.”

Acta expects Central foes to make a run

MINNEAPOLIS — By the end of the season, the first-place Indians and last-place Twins very well could switch places in the American League Central standings.

At the very least, Indians manager Manny Acta expects the Twins — and the White Sox and Tigers — to figure things out and make a run at some point.

“Absolutely,” Acta said. “Those teams, they’ve done it in the past. Some of them made additions in the offseason and it’s still very early. A lot of the guys that are struggling right now are not going to struggle the whole year, and vice versa.”

Still, it would seem that the Indians have an opportunity this weekend at Target Field to take advantage of a Twins squad that isn’t playing up to its potential early on in the season.

Acta doesn’t necessarily see it that way, but he likes the way his team is playing so far. In order to stay at the top, he knows they’ll have to continue to play consistently at the same level, while the young players on the team continue to improve.

“You can’t compare yourself to others, you’ve just got to continue to get better yourself and see where that takes you,” Acta said.

One thing Acta does not want to discuss is what constitutes a “good start.” The way he sees it, with how long the baseball season is, if the Indians played poorly over the next few weeks or month, that could become a “bad start” to the season.

What does matter is where the Indians are in the standings at the end of the season.

“It doesn’t make any sense if we go out next month and have the same type of month the other way around that we’re having right now,” Acta said.

“To me, it’s playing consistent baseball throughout the year. It’s a long season. Would you want to go over and ask the Rockies if they would rather have a good April in 2007 and not win the 21 out of 22 that they won to go to the World Series? You think they would trade that? The World Series for starting 7-0 in April and then not making the playoffs?”

Acta very impressed with Gordon’s defense

MINNEAPOLIS — After their 3-2 loss on Thursday to the Royals, defense was a topic of discussion for the Indians. In particular, the notable difference in the outcomes of the throws by Royals center fielder Melky Cabrera and Indians left fielder Michael Brantley.

Whereas Cabrera managed an excellent throw to retire Indians catcher Carlos Santana at the plate to save a run, Brantley had trouble getting a grip on the wet ball, allowing Mitch Maier to score and tie the game.

Had it not been for the defense of Royals left fielder Alex Gordon, however, the Indians may have come away with a sweep, rather than splitting the series in Kansas City.

In the Indians’ 5-4 loss Tuesday, Gordon had a diving grab in the ninth to save a run and preserve the Royals’ one-run victory. Thursday night, Gordon had another defensive gem in left field and also made a diving grab at first base for an inning-ending double play in the ninth, to save at least one more run.

“He might have saved more than two runs [Thursday night],” Acta said. “He not only saved runs there, he turned that into an out. He played tremendous defense in that series.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Liriano scuffles in loss to Royals

April 14, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — In the first three innings of games this season, Francisco Liriano has been impressive. It’s the next three that are the issue.

In his office Wednesday morning, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire discussed with reporters Liriano’s middle-inning struggles, attributing them to a tendency by Liriano to get overhyped after something goes wrong. Against the Royals, Gardenhire did not believe that was the issue in the Twins’ 10-5 loss.

“He was making pitches, the ball was just rolling through,” Gardenhire said. “They found some holes. Off the end of the bat, the ball rolled up the middle, another one in the hole, a jam shot that shot through the hole there. He blooped another one to right.

“He was making pitches. I didn’t think he was trying to overthrow the ball and he was using all of his pitches. They just found some holes in the one inning.”

That inning was the fourth, in which the Royals plated six runs on eight hits, all off Liriano.

After holding the Royals hitless through three innings on Wednesday, Liriano had his outing derailed by a leadoff single in the fourth. Each of the next five batters got a hit as well, and the Royals were on their way to a road win.

Royals center fielder Melky Cabrera got things started with a single, and Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Jeff Francoeur and Wilson Betemit each followed with singles of their own. Mike Aviles added a two-run double and later scored the sixth run of the inning.

“It was a tough inning for me,” Liriano said. “I think I made some good pitches in that inning, and they were still getting hits. You’ve just got to tip your hat to them.”

Against Cabrera, Liriano fell behind 2-0 before giving up a single through the hole to left field. Gordon hit the first pitch he saw back up the middle, just past Matt Tolbert at short. Liriano was ahead of Butler, 1-2, but the first baseman hit a fastball to left for the base hit.

He was behind Francoeur, 1-0, and gave up an RBI single back through the middle, on a pitch that was nearly in the dirt.

“The one Francoeur hit up the middle, I went to block it,” catcher Drew Butera said. “Obviously he’s a good bad-ball hitter, but at the same time, he still made the pitches, executed what he wanted to do, and it was just one of those days.”

Behind 0-1, Betemit hit a changeup on a soft liner to left, scoring another run.

Aviles was behind 0-2, but still managed to hit the ball just past Danny Valencia at third base and into shallow left field for the hustle double. No matter what Liriano did, any pitch he tried, the Royals had an answer for it and managed to find a hole for a base hit.

“We just kept putting the good part of the bat on the ball, putting the ball in play and everything was falling in,” Aviles said. “We really didn’t hit the ball as hard as we could in that inning, if you really think about it, but it doesn’t really matter as long as the balls find holes and we keep putting pressure on the defense.”

Liriano finished with seven runs allowed on eight hits in five innings of work, including a walk and four strikeouts. Royals starter Kyle Davies also lasted just five innings, but it was enough for the win, as he allowed five runs on 10 hits with one walk and four strikeouts.

The Twins answered with a four-run, six-hit inning of their own in the fifth, highlighted by a two-run single by Delmon Young, but couldn’t catch up.

“It was a day of bunches, man,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “We bunched together a bunch of hits and they came back and bunched together a bunch of hits. Again, our bullpen was spectacular and did the job.”

Four Twins collected two or more hits in the game, including Tolbert, Jason Kubel, Delmon Young and Denard Span, who went 4-for-5 with four singles and two runs scored.

Unfortunately for the Twins and the 36,286 fans on hand — the smallest crowd so far in Target Field history — most of those hits came off Davies. Once Yost went to his bullpen, the Twins’ managed just two more hits in four innings.

Between Kanekoa Texeira, Tim Collins and Jeremy Jeffress, the Royals’ relievers retired 12-of-14 batters faced. Jeffress allowed one hit while facing seven batters over two innings, earning his first Major League save.

“A solid bullpen, I think you saw some really good arms coming out of the bullpen,” Gardenhire said. “That’s the adjustments they’re starting to make. Young kids with great arms out of the bullpen, bringing in some veterans that have won. It’s about getting a winning atmosphere.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Twins beat 4/13

April 13, 2011 Comments off

Hughes could supplant Casilla on occasion

MINNEAPOLIS — If Alexi Casilla doesn’t start swinging the bat better, Luke Hughes could soon find himself getting a start or two at shortstop.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire talked Wednesday morning about the possibility of using Hughes, who he sees as primarily a second or third baseman, in place of Casilla. It all hinges on Casilla’s approach at the plate.

“I like Alexi’s defense, the way he moved around last night was better, he had more energy,” Gardenhire said. “But if he continues to wave at the ball like he’s doing, I need him to swing, and I told him that again last night, ‘Swing the bat, son.'”

Through 10 games, Casilla has just three hits, good for a .143 batting average with two doubles, three runs scored and an RBI. Casilla has struck out just three times in 21 at-bats, with most of his outs coming on weak ground balls.

In a crucial moment Saturday, Casilla also failed to plate a run with none out and runners on the corners in the fifth inning. Casilla grounded softly back to the pitcher on the play.

“I think he’s trying not to make mistakes or trying not to do things, rather than just going [hard] again,” Gardenhire said. “Last year, that’s what he did, he just went [hard]. When he played he got out there and just had a ball playing. Right now, he looks tentative.”

What makes Casilla’s poor play and apparent tentativeness more intriguing is his play in Spring Training. Throughout the month of March, he looked just the opposite.

The other concern with Casilla is that he occasionally outthinks himself at the plate. With his speed, he can certainly beat out a bunt for a single. At the same time, he can swing the bat well enough to make corner infielders pay for playing in too far while anticipating the bunt.

All Casilla needs to do is pick one or the other and go with it.

“If you’re going to go up there and bunt, drop a bunt,” Gardenhire said. “If you’re trying to draw people in and then hit it by them, they’re already in. They’re already playing you for the bunt, you don’t need to fake bunt and swing.

“Maybe you fake swing and then bunt, but they’re already in, you don’t have to draw them in. Get a pitch and then hit it by them. Those are the things that I think Alexi was doing in spring, trying to hook balls by the first baseman and by the third baseman because they’re playing in.”

Cuddyer finally breaks loose at the plate

MINNEAPOLIS — Going into Tuesday’s series opener, Michael Cuddyer did not feel any different than he did in the nine previous games, but the difference in results was like night and day.

Cuddyer, who was batting .107 entering the game against the Royals, went 4-for-4 for the Twins, singling in each of his first four at-bats before drawing a walk in the 10th inning. That performance boosted his batting average more than 100 points, to .219.

“How do you get 4-for-4 and raise your batting average to .219?” Gardenhire asked. “So you started pretty low, right?”

The four hits for Cuddyer more than doubled his previous season total of three going into Tuesday’s game. Of course, it’s not like those four were the first balls Cuddyer hit well all season.

The only difference was that all four of them fell in safely.

“Baseball’s crazy,” Cuddyer said. “Sometimes they find the grass, sometimes they don’t. Three days ago, I hit a ball up the middle and Delmon [Young] was stealing, the second baseman was on top of the bag. Today, nobody was stealing.

“Those are the little things that make or break hits, especially this early in the season. You hit a few balls hard, line drives, they’re outs, now you’re hitting .100 on the scoreboard. You don’t have any at-bats behind you. It’s not like it’s June or July where there’s 300 at-bats, there’s 28.”

It was still encouraging for one of the Twins’ better hitters to finally get something going at the plate.

Over the last two games, the lineup has looked much improved offensively, collecting 23 hits and plating seven runs. The Twins have talked about staying patient and not panicking, and now, it looks like they’re getting back to normal this week.

“Hits are starting to come,” Gardenhire said. “Balls are starting to fall in and then the pressure goes away of trying to force things.

“It was just about adjustments. Early in the game, we didn’t make very many good adjustments. Cuddy did, he got up on the plate, covered the plate, sat on the changeup and ripped it. But that’s what the game’s all about, making a few adjustments as you see them the first time.”

Frustrated Twins finding fence hard to reach

MINNEAPOLIS — When asked about Jason Kubel’s long single Tuesday night, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he didn’t even want to get into it. Before Wednesday’s game, he shared some reactions from the dugout.

Both Kubel’s near home run and left fielder Delmon Young’s long fly out earlier in the game frustrated Twins players as they continued to have trouble hitting the ball out of Target Field.

“Some balls were hit pretty hard,” Gardenhire said. “Delmon said, ‘That’s all I’ve got.'”

Kubel and Young’s long fly balls that stayed in the park were just another example of how big the Twins’ ballpark plays. Of course, the wind Tuesday night did not help.

At game time, the wind was measured at just nine miles per hour, from right field to left, but it was clearly stronger at times, and certainly was blowing in.

“It was blowing around pretty good in there and it was knocking the balls down last night good, more so than most days or nights,” Gardenhire said. “But it was pretty entertaining to watch their reactions, win lose or draw. When Kubel hit that ball, I honestly almost turned away.

“I watched to see whether it was going to be a homer or how high it was going to hit off the wall. Then I look at the baserunner and I see him kind of catch it and I’m like ‘geez,’ because he crushed that ball. You can’t hit it any harder than he hit that one.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Twins beat 4/12

April 13, 2011 Comments off

Hughes picks up win against former team

MINNEAPOLIS — Even after picking up his second career win Tuesday against his former team, Twins left-handed reliever Dusty Hughes insisted it was just another game.

“It’s great” Hughes said. “I wouldn’t say it’s any extra because it’s against the old team or anything like that. [But] it really is kind of neat to get to pitch against them.”

After spending seven years in the Kansas City Royals organization, Hughes was happy to see some familiar faces in town.

Some of his best friends remaining in the Royals’ clubhouse, whom he still spends time with when he can, include Mitch Maier, Mike Aviles, Billy Butler, Kanekoa Texeira and Joakim Soria. When he came in to pitch the 10th of the Twins’ 4-3 victory, Hughes retired the heart of the Royals’ lineup in order, including Butler, who batted second in the inning.

“You have to kind of put things behind you as far as that goes,” Hughes said. “It was kind of neat to get to face Billy Butler and [Alex] Gordon. But it’s just [like] any other game, you go out there to win a ballgame.

“I was going to try to keep us in it at that point. You just try and do anything you can to not give up any runs and give our team a chance. I was fortunate enough to do that tonight.”

Hughes needed just 12 pitches, and a spectacular diving grab of his own, to get out of the inning and send it to the bottom of the 10th.

Before the Twins decided to claim Hughes off waivers from the Royals this offseason, they consulted with the left-handed hitters in their lineup.

The consensus among them was that Hughes was a tough-to-hit, deceptive southpaw. To Hughes, hearing the respect his new teammates had for him meant a lot.

“I heard that a couple weeks ago,” Hughes said. “I didn’t know that in Spring Training at all, but yeah, that’s unbelievable to me because of just the whole repertoire of left-handed hitters they have here, starting with [Denard] Span and all the way down to [Jason] Kubel.

“It’s pretty flattering to know that if they asked any of those guys, for them to say, ‘He can pitch for us,’ it’s a confidence builder for me.”

Since struggling in his season debut April 1 at Toronto, Hughes has been exactly as advertised. In two innings of work against the Yankees, he allowed just two hits while striking out three batters. Against the A’s on Saturday at Target Field, Hughes retired each of the two batters he faced in the seventh with a strikeout.

Hughes has been an integral part of a surprisingly good Twins bullpen that many thought was the team’s biggest question mark heading into the 2011 season. Entering Tuesday, Minnesota was tied with Toronto for the third-lowest bullpen ERA in the American League at 3.00 over 27 innings. Twins relievers had allowed just 22 hits and held opponents to a .239 batting average.

“Somebody pointed out to me that we hadn’t given up a run for a while, and we obviously did the other day,” Hughes said. “So, I’ve got to get on that guy.

“But I think as a whole, we’ve got a really good group out there. We’re starting to really mesh well already and it’s getting good, it’s getting fun.”

Twins’ offense struggling out of the gate

MINNEAPOLIS — Last season, the Minnesota Twins ranked at or near the top of the Majors of most offensive statistical categories. Through nine games this season, they were at or near the bottom.

The 2010 Twins were second in the Majors in on-base percentage, seventh in slugging and third in batting average. Entering Tuesday, the Twins were 29th, 30th and 29th in the same categories. Thanks to those struggles, and surprise hot starts by the Indians and Royals, the Twins entered Tuesday night last in the American League Central standings.

As the Twins continued to struggle at the plate through their first home series, some boos could be heard from the crowd following disappointing groundouts or strikeouts.

“They just want us to get hits, that’s all,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We expect that. We want to get hits, and guys are trying really hard. And they’re good hitters, they’ve got the track record.”

Still, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Minnesota entered Tuesday last in RBIs, driving in just 24 runs compared to the Reds, who lead the Majors with 62. The Twins also ranked last in total bases with 85, walks with 19, and home runs with three.

With an OPS of .554, the Twins are more than 300 points behind the Phillies, who lead at .865. One problem may be the Twins aren’t taking enough pitches, as they’ve seen only 1,209, which ranks last in the league and is 450 fewer than the Tigers have faced.

Whatever the issue may be, the Twins continue to say they’re not worried about it, and they expect the offense will come at some point.

“It’s way too early,” Gardenhire said. “Everybody wants to get off to a good start, obviously we haven’t. We’ve faced some really good pitching staffs early in the season.

“I feel pretty good about this group.”

Twins handing out too many free passes

MINNEAPOLIS — When the Twins mounted a three-run rally in the eighth inning Sunday, it was not enough because they had dug themselves into too deep of a hole.

It can be tough to win when your starter pitches just five innings and gives up four runs on seven hits, including two no-doubt home runs. That was the case Sunday, but the bigger issue so far this season has been the surprisingly high number of walks allowed.

After leading the Majors with the fewest walks allowed at 383 last season, the Twins have put 36 opposing hitters on base via the walk, the eighth-highest total in the league entering Tuesday.

Left-handed starter Francisco Liriano has especially struggled with walks, giving up eight through his first two starts of the season, both losses.

“I don’t know what’s happening,” Liriano said. “We’re not the type of guys to go out there and walk a lot of people. I think we’re trying to do too much, trying to be too perfect.”

The A’s walked five times in their 5-3 victory over the Twins, including a crucial free pass in the sixth inning issued by reliver Jeff Manship. After relieving Scott Baker, Manship walked the first batter he faced, loading the bases.

Each of the next three batters drove in one run apiece. In his postgame press conference, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire acknowledged that walks were an issue, but did not think they were the reason for his team’s loss.

“Too many [walks]. I think that’s the one frustrating thing,” Gardenhire said. “We’re accustomed to throwing the ball over the plate and making them swing, and we’ve given way too many gifts out there.

“We’re just misfiring a little bit, but this shouldn’t be about our pitching. What did we give up, seven runs in this series? I think that was about it. So it’s really not about our pitching.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.