Friday, April 4, 2008

Twins Squeeze Out 4-3 Win Over Royals

All good things must come to an end, and what was good for the Kansas City Royals in a three-game sweep at Detroit to open the season came to an end on Friday in Minnesota, as the Twins eked out a 4-3 win.

Minnesota (2-3) trailed 3-1 after two innings, but tied the game with two runs in the bottom of the third inning, and then scored what proved to be the winning run by beating the Royals at their own game -- small ball -- when third baseman Mike Lamb scampered home on a suicide squeeze bunt by shortstop Adam Everett in the bottom of the fourth.

The Royals (3-1) jumped on top quickly by scoring twice in the first frame. Center fielder Joey Gathright led off the game with a drag bunt past Twins pitcher Scott Baker (1-0), stole second base, moved over to third on an infield hit by second baseman Mark Grudzielanek, and scored on a fielder's choice by right fielder Jose Guillen. Grudzielanek then scored on an RBI single by designated hitter Billy Butler.

Royals starter John Bale (0-1) surrendered three straight singles to open the Twins' half of the first inning, but limited Minnesota to one run by getting first baseman Justin Morneau to ground into a double play.

Left fielder Mark Teahen then opened the second inning with a double to the right field corner, and later scored on an RBI single to left field by catcher John Buck to give Kansas City a 3-1 lead.

But Bale made a costly mistake in the bottom of the third, which wound up being costly. With one out, Twins catcher Joe Mauer hit a bouncing ball toward second base, which Bale attempted to snag, but it hit off his glove and Mauer wound up with an infield single. Had Bale let the ball go, it likely would have been fielded by Royals shortstop Tony Pena for the second out of the inning.

But right fielder Michael Cuddyer followed with a single, and then Morneau doubled to score Mauer. Left fielder Delmon Young's RBI fielder's choice then tied the game.

Bale pitched well in spots, going 6.1 innings and allowing 10 hits and four earned runs, but took the loss in his first Major League start since 2003. Royals' relievers Jimmy Gobble and Ramon Ramirez held the Twins scoreless, with Gobble striking out Mauer, Jason Kubel, and Morneau in succession, to give the Royals a chance at the end.

But Minnesota closer Joe Nathan recorded his second save in as many chances this season by working around a two-out single by Butler, and striking out Teahen looking to end the game.

Offensively for the Royals, Grudzielanek and Butler each had two hits in four at bats. Through four games, Grudzielanek is batting .500/.556/.563 with eight hits in 16 at bats and a team-high five runs scored.

With the loss, there are no remaining undefeated teams in MLB, as the Royals entered the game as the lone remaining team to hold that distinction. Kansas City remains atop the American League Central standings, though, one-half game ahead of Cleveland (2-1).

The teams play Saturday at 1:10 p.m., with Royals ace Gil Meche (0-0) set to square off against Twins ace Livan Hernandez (1-0).

Mark Grudzielanek Photo Credit: Tom Olmscheid/AP

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