Twins take advantage as Royals' 'pen falters

Bases-loaded walks plague KC relievers in pivotal 7th inning Monday

Twins take advantage as Royals' 'pen falters

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Royals and manager Ned Yost figured they had the Twins right where they wanted them: A 1-1 game in the late innings, with a bullpen so elite in recent years ready to lock yet another opponent down.

And then everything unraveled.

After starter Danny Duffy tossed six strong innings of one-run ball, the Royals' bullpen collapsed in the seventh after a broken-bat hit, a misplay on a bunt, a sacrifice bunt and then a whole lot of walks. When the carnage was over, the Twins had a six-run inning, the most allowed by the Royals in a single inning on Opening Day.

The Twins also eventually had a 7-1 triumph.

"We did have the matchups we liked," Yost said. "Command evaded us ... the inning started off really benign."

Jorge Polanco got things going with a broken-bat blooper up the middle off left-hander Matt Strahm, the rookie sensation who had a 1.23 ERA last season in 21 games. Max Kepler followed with a sacrifice bunt attempt down the first-base line; Strahm was slow to the ball and a replay challenge confirmed his throw to first to get Kepler was late.

Kepler reaches first

"I should have made that play," Strahm said. "I need to make the throw quicker but he beat it."

"I wasn't sure what I was going to do if it got to 3-1 [count], but he got it down," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "It was the little things. You look through the lineup today and see how they contributed, Kep got that bunt down in what was one of the biggest plays of the day and got down the line."

After a sacrifice bunt by Eddie Rosario, Yost chose to walk Brian Dozier. But the decision backfired when Strahm missed on four straight pitches to Robbie Grossman, forcing in a run. None of the pitches were particularly close.

"I think he was a little nervous with what was going on," Grossman said. "I'm not too sure."

Polanco scores on walk

Strahm's explanation: "I was just spinning off it. I wasn't staying on top of the ball. I need to be better."

Next, Yost opted for right-hander Peter Moylan for the righty-righty matchup with Byron Buxton, whom Moylan fanned for the second out.

That prompted another call to the bullpen for a lefty-lefty matchup with Travis Wood vs. the Twins' Joe Mauer. Wood walked in another run.

That brought up Miguel Sano, and yet another bases-loaded walk ensued, the third of the inning. The Royals had only seven bases-loaded walks all last season.

"It's baseball," Yost said. "Things like that happen. You don't see it very often, but it does."

Sano helps Dozier score

Forced to practically groove a pitch, Wood then sent a slider over the middle of the plate that Jason Castro sliced into left for a two-run single, giving the Twins a commanding 6-1 lead.

"We showed some patience taking some walks," Molitor said. "Castro got the big hit and Polanco followed it up. [Castro] had a heck of a day. He did a nice job delivering a big hit to break it open for us."

"It was unacceptable," Wood said of his performance. "That can't happen."

Molitor beamed about his team's ability to play small ball late in the game.

"We put up a big number late in the game when everything was nip and tuck," Molitor said. "It was nice to get some breathing room."

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.