Minnesota sports fans, do you want the good news or the bad news first?
Well, the bad news is that the Twins took an eighth-innings lead on Thursday and lost 3-2 to last-placed Kansas City to begin a four-game home stand against their American League Central rival. They were the first to have two consecutive losses since being swept by Houston on May 10–12, and their 4½-game division lead over Central was in danger of shortening the White Sox’s game against Boston.
The good news was that spot starter Devin Smeltzer was brilliant. Paul for his second stint with the big league team this season, Smetlzer did everything he could to convince the Twins to keep him for a while.
A left-hander sent Brian Dossier to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2018 but camped as a non-roster invitee this spring, dodging the Kansas City Royals for seven shutout innings in front of a declared crowd of 17,657. Farm.
Smeltzer left with a 2–0 lead after seven innings, but the Royals quickly turned the tables, hitting right-hander Tyler Duffy (2–3) for three runs on three hits and running in the top of the eighth. Touched.
Throwing a five-pitch mix – fastball, curve, changeup, sinker and slider – Smeltzer tied a career-high with six strikeouts and allowed only two hits while throwing a season-high 80 pitches. He ran one batsman, Andrew Benintendi, on four pitches to open the fourth innings, but was wiped out on a double play grounder by the next batsman Bobby Witt Jr.
It was a master class in deception. Smeltzer’s four-seam fastball topped 90.7 mph, and his curveball was regularly in the 75 mph range. None of his three base-runners reached second base.
Smeltzer, 26, missed last season because of a herniated disc in his neck, which caused, among other things, a loss of feeling in some of his fingers. Removing the 40-man roster in November, he moved to Fort Myers, Fla., as a non-roster invitee. Went and almost made the opening day roster. But he was not called till 14 May.
He began the game against Cleveland and Kansas City, running 1–0 with a 1.74 earned run average. After Thursday’s start, he allowed eight hits and four walks in his 17⅓ innings and reduced his ERA to 1.04.
Whit Merrifield hit a two-run double to center Duffy to tie the game with one in the eighth inning, and Witt singled him home to move on. Ryan Jeffers and Gilberto Celestino scored for the Twins.
The Twins loaded the ground in their half-innings against right-hander Joel Pemps. Gary Sanchez reached when third baseman Emmanuel Rivera dropped the ball after fielding his grounder, and Gio Ursella and Luis Arrez followed with singles.
The Royals manager then called in his high-leveraged reliever, right-hander Scott Barlow. Coming into the infield, Barlow dismissed Miranda and pinch-hitter Nick Gordon, then got first to defend the lead to a weakly grounded out Max Kepler. He finished ninth for his fifth defense, trapping a possible tying run at third base.
The Twins defeated the Royals 11–6, leaving 11 men at base.