Royals pitching continued to struggle, as Kansas City closed out a 1-5 road trip with a 9-4 loss to Minnesota on Tuesday night at Metropolitan Stadium.
Kansas City was outscored 44-33 in the six road games, despite holding a lead in each game. The offense did not score fewer than four runs in any of those games, but the pitchers’ inability to keep the ball in the ballpark meant the Royals ended the trip two games further out of first and a spot lower in the standings than when they left Kansas City.
The culprit this night was Andy Hassler, who was staked to a 3-1 lead but allowed four runs in the fourth and three more in the fifth. Minnesota’s first run came in the first inning, as Rod Carew doubled with two outs and Dan Ford singled. After two uneventful innings, the Twins exploded in the fourth.
Ford started the inning with a home run. Craig Kusick singled but was forced out at second on Butch Wynegar’s grounder. Roy Smalley doubled, with Wynegar stopping at third. Hassler walked Jerry Terrell to load the bases. Bob Gorinski singled to drive in one run. In fairness to Hassler, he got the ground ball he needed to end the inning, but shortstop Bob Heise threw it away and two more runs scored. Hassler got another grounder, resulting in an inning-ending double play, but the Twins now held a 5-3 lead.
Minnesota put the game away in the fifth. With two outs, Hassler walked Kusick and Smalley. Wynegar then belted his seventh home run of the year, the 10th home run allowed by KC pitchers on the road trip.
The Royals’ offense collected 11 hits against Twins starter Dave Goltz, but couldn’t keep up with Minnesota’s offense in this one. The Royals picked up a single run in three of the first four innings. In the top of the first, Hal McRae singled with one out. A passed ball and a fly ball advanced him to third, and he scored on an Al Cowens single. In the third inning, George Brett tripled with two outs, then scored on another Cowens single. In the fourth, Amos Otis drew a one-out walk and took second on a wild pitch and scored on Frank White’s single with two outs.
But Hassler couldn’t hold the 3-1 lead. Reliever Mark Littell allowed an unearned run in the eighth, as Gorinski scored from second on a wild pitch due to Porter’s throwing error. Kansas City scored one run in the ninth, with Cowens picking up his third RBI single of the evening to drive in McRae, but it was not nearly enough.
“It’s not too late,” manager Whitey Herzog said after the game. “If we don’t do something in the next 10 to 12 games, I’ll start to worry.”
“This is the way bad baseball clubs and expansion clubs lose,” McRae said. “We get into a lead but we can’t hold it.”
The loss left the Royals with a 56-45 record. They were in third place in the AL West, now tied with Texas at 5.5 games behind Chicago. The second-place Twins had a two-game advantage on the Royals and Rangers.
Box score and play-by-play:
Today’s birthdays: Tom Burgmeier (1943), Bombo Rivera (1952), Derek Botelho (1956), Humberto Quintero (1979), Onelki Garcia (1989)