MINNEAPOLIS -- The Royals came to Minnesota having swept the Tigers in a three-game series to start the season and holding onto first in the American League Central division. It was enough to create a national buzz surrounding this upshot Royals club -- one that seemed to hit a quick end when the Twins took the first two games of the series But on Sunday, the Twins got their first real glimpse of just how tough these "new-look" Royals can be.
One day after it had appeared that the Twins had broken out of a scoring slump by tallying a season-high six runs, the club saw its offense shut down -- this time by a strong Royals pitching performance -- in a 3-1 loss to Kansas City in the series finale at the Metrodome. "You've got to tip your hat to the guys on the other side today," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They didn't give us really too many opportunities. They played a little better and pitched a little better. This is a good Royals team with a lot of talent -- good young talent." The Twins' offense managed to tag Royals starter Brett Tomko for six hits over his five innings, making him throw a total of 92 pitches over that span. But despite having a runner on base with fewer than two outs in each of Tomko's five innings, the Twins was unable to record a run in any of them. "We made him work, but he made good pitches too," Gardenhire said. "He moved it in and out, and their bullpen came in and did a super job. They've got some guys that can really throw the ball." The Twins did create some mistakes of their own. They grounded into two double plays, giving them an American League leading 15 on the season. They also had at least one miscue on the basepaths that proved costly. With the Twins already trailing, 2-0, Carlos Gomez led off the third inning with a single to right field. But Gomez tried to stretch it into a double and was thrown out at second base by right fielder Jose Guillen. It was a play that appeared to be a bit greedy, although Gardenhire applauded the effort of his young center fielder for trying to be aggressive. It was a play he felt could have been momentum-changing for the Twins had it been successful.
"I'd take that 10 times over watching a guy jog to first base and be satisfied with a single," Gardenhire said. "Our guy is trying to get to second base on plays like that and sometimes you get thrown out, but I'll take my chances every time."
The Twins' lone run came in the sixth after Tomko had departed. One day after belting his first homer of the season, first baseman Justin Morneau recorded his second. He crushed a two-out, solo shot into the upper deck seats in right field on the first pitch he saw from Royals left-hander Ron Mahay.
But offensively, that was as good as it would get for the Twins. The team managed to have just one hitter reach base over the final three innings, when Matt Tolbert doubled to left field with two outs in the eighth.
"It's one of those situations where you get one guy swinging and another guy not," Gardenhire said. "Once we get a little more consistency throughout the lineup, we should be fine. You see our starting pitching, they are stepping it up against some good lineups."
That was the case Sunday as the Twins had to watch another solid outing from their starting pitcher go wasted. Right-hander Boof Bonser gave up just three runs on eight hits over his seven innings. For the second straight outing, Bonser did not issue a walk, and he struck out four while throwing 91 pitches.
"Boof threw really well today. It's unfortunate that we couldn't score more runs for him," Morneau said.
That's been an early theme this season. The Twins have managed a total of just two runs in Bonser's two outings.
Still, the loss Sunday wasn't quite so disheartening. Coming off a series in which they took just one of four from the Angels at home, the Twins felt like they swung momentum in their direction by winning two of three from the Royals.
It's something they hope to carry with them as they head off on their first road trip of the year, a three-city stretch that includes Chicago, Kansas City and Detroit -- all division rivals. Despite having gone 3-4 in their first homestand, the players feel they are headed in the right direction.
"Obviously, [we] want to start off better than that, but I think we're ahead of Detroit right now and that's good," Morneau said. "After winning this series, you throw the first one out the window. And if we keep winning series, we're going to be where we want to be."
|"Boof threw really well today. It's unfortunate that we couldn't score more runs for him."|
-- Twins first baseman|
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.