This was not the way Larry Gura wanted to enter the playoffs. The veteran lefthander, slated to pitch the Royals’ first game in the ALCS, did pitch a complete game. But he allowed 14 hits and walked five, as Kansas City lost, 5-3, to the Minnesota Twins on a Friday night at Royals Stadium.
Gura had looked like a cinch to win 20 games when he picked up his 18th win on August 25. But a string of bad starts, with a bit of bad luck, had resulted in him going 0-5 in September. This setback meant he finished the season with an 18-10 mark.
Minnesota scored one run in the first, as Gary Ward led off with a single. Two consecutive grounders for forceouts at second left Ken Landreaux at first with two outs. Jose Morales singled and Ron Jackson doubled for a 1-0 lead.
The Twins added two more runs in the second. Ward doubled with two outs and John Castino hit his 13th home run of the season.
Kansas City answered with a run in the bottom of the second. Hal McRae led off with his 12th home run of the year, off Twins starter Jerry Koosman.
Although Minnesota collected hits in the fourth and fifth innings, Gura kept them from scoring more runs until the sixth. In that inning, Rob Wilfong tripled with one out and scored when Ward hit a sacrifice fly. That increased the Twins’ lead to 4-1.
The Royals kept pace with a run in their half of the sixth. Willie Wilson led off with a single, followed by a U L Washington single. George Brett’s sacrifice fly cut the Minnesota lead to 4-2.
Kansas City drew a bit closer in the seventh. With one out, Darrell Porter drew a walk and scored on a Frank White double with two outs. But Wilson’s line drive, seemingly ticketed for right field, was snared by second baseman Wilfong to end the threat.
The Twins added an insurance run in the ninth. Morales tripled with one out. After an intentional walk, Butch Wynegar’s sacrifice bunt brought in pinch-runner Willie Norwood to give Minnesota a 5-3 lead.
Willie Aikens started the bottom of the ninth with a single, leading the Twins to summon Doug Corbett for the save. The Royals were likely not sorry to see the last of Koosman for the year; the lefty picked up his third win of the season over Kansas City, to go with a 2.55 ERA in four starts. Of Koosman’s 139 strikeouts on the season, 21 percent (29) came against the Royals.
Corbett got pinch-hitter John Wathan to ground into a forceout, then induced pinch-hitter Pete LaCock to ground into a game-ending double play, giving the Twins their 12th straight win, the longest winning streak by any team in the majors in 1980.
With the loss, the Royals fell to 95-65. They held a 13-game lead in the AL West.
George Brett watch: 1-3 with an RBI. Season stats: .389/.453/.665
Box score and play-by-play: https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/KCA/KCA198010030.shtml
Today’s birthdays: Steve Foucault (1949), Kerry Robinson (1973)