Molitor's defensive strategy doesn't pay off

Switch backfires as Rosario can't make key play in 8th

Molitor's defensive strategy doesn't pay off

KANSAS CITY -- After Byung Ho Park's first Major League homer gave Minnesota a one-run lead in the top of the eighth, the Twins had the Royals right where they wanted them with six outs to go.

Right-hander Kevin Jepsen, the Twins' best reliever in the second half of last season after being acquired in a trade with the Rays, came in, and manager Paul Molitor opted to go with an all-defensive outfield, replacing Miguel Sano in left field with Eddie Rosario, with Danny Santana in right.

But it unraveled in a hurry in the Twins' 4-3 loss, as Jepsen gave up a leadoff single to Alex Gordon before Salvador Perez tripled to left past a diving Rosario, who couldn't quite make the play. It scored Gordon and set up Perez to score the winning run on a sacrifice fly from Omar Infante.

Molitor, though, defended his decision to put Rosario into the game, and said it's unlikely he would've been able to keep the ball in front of him even if he didn't dive.

"I don't know if he could've," Molitor said. "It was one of those plays that had a lot of carry and it was a tough angle for him to get back and cut the ball off. I think going for the catch was probably the right thing to do in that circumstance."

It was another tough outing for Jepsen, who picked up his second loss of the young season, as he also gave up a walk-off hit in their Opening Day defeat to the Orioles. This one dropped the Twins to 0-4.

"I feel like when I miss right now they're being hit where nobody's at," Jepsen said. "The hits are definitely falling in right now. Hopefully, it'll turn around here shortly."

The decision to go with Rosario in the outfield also took Sano's bat out of the lineup, and it led to the struggling Rosario coming up to the plate in the biggest situation of the game in the ninth against closer Wade Davis. After Danny Santana couldn't get down a sacrifice bunt to get Brian Dozier to third -- bunting on what would've been ball four before striking out on a pitch in the dirt -- Joe Mauer grounded out, but went to second with Dozier caught in a rundown.

Rosario came to the plate with a chance to tie it, but struck out for the seventh time in four games to hand the Twins their fourth straight loss. Minnesota fell to 0-4 for the fourth time in franchise history, and the first time since 2012.

"We went ahead and did the defensive switch, which is always a little risky when you take Miguel out of the game offensively," Molitor said. "But with the lead and six outs to go and a big outfield, I thought it was the right thing to do."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.