Another late lead slipped through the Royals’ fingers, as Minnesota scored three runs over their last two at-bats to pick up a 4-3 win at Metropolitan Stadium in Minneapolis.
Minnesota’s hero was center fielder Cesar Tovar, who led off the seventh inning with the Royals ahead 2-1. Tovar singled and stole second, then scored the tying run on a Ted Uhlaender single. Then in the eighth, with Moe Drabowsky on in relief of starter Wally Bunker, Tovar cracked his first home run of the season with a man on. That put the Twins on top, 4-2.
Minnesota picked up a brief 1-0 lead in the first as Tony Oliva homered with two outs. The Royals answered in the top of the second with a manufactured run. Ellie Rodriguez singled with one out, took second on a groundout, and was able to score on two wild pitches from Twins starter Bob Miller.
Rodriguez figured in the Royals’ run in the fourth inning, as well. With one out, Bob Oliver walked and Lou Piniella singled. Rodriguez hit a short popup that eluded Miller and all the infielders, and was safe at first with an infield single.
Bunker protected the 2-1 lead into the seventh, although he really had to work at it. Minnesota only went down in order in the sixth inning, as the Twins had 10 hits in Bunker’s seven innings, although he did strike out six. The Twins had two singles in the second, another in the third, and two more in the fourth, when Rich Reese was thrown out at home on a fielder’s choice for the first out.
Meanwhile, Miller retired eight straight after the Rodriguez infield single. The Royals finally managed three hits in the seventh, but Juan Rios bounced into a double play after the first one, and Kansas City came up empty-handed.
And the Royals still had a chance to tie the game in the ninth. Facing reliever Al Worthington, who had struck out the side in the eighth, pinch-hitter Hawk Taylor singled with two outs. Ed Kirkpatrick followed with a single, and Pat Kelly singled to pull the Royals within one run. But Paul Schaal grounded out to end the game.
The loss dropped the Royals to 35-48 on the season. They were in fifth place in the AL West, 13.5 games behind the Twins, who had opened up a 3.5 game lead on Oakland.
Box score and play-by-play: https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/MIN/MIN196907080.shtml
Today’s birthdays: Ken Sanders (1941), Terry Puhl (1956), Ernie Young (1969)