Command issues hurt Sanchez in Game 1 loss

Command issues hurt Sanchez in Game 1 loss

Command issues hurt Sanchez in Game 1 loss
MINNEAPOLIS -- For the Royals, it seems to be four and no more.

For the third time this season, they've had their longest winning streak snapped after four victories, this time by the Minnesota Twins, 7-2, on Saturday as 37,694 sun-toasted fans watched the first game of a day-night doubleheader at Target Field.

The early-afternoon opener turned nasty for Royals starter Jonathan Sanchez in the fifth inning, but what can you expect when an obviously foul ball hit by the Twins crazily twists fair?

Sanchez gave up two runs in the third inning, but mostly danced around disaster until his luck ran out in the fifth. With two on and one out, the Twins' Brian Dozier hit a little spinner which went into foul territory next to the batter's box by a good three feet, but then spun madly into fair ground.

"I've never seen a ball do that, a ball that was three feet foul curve back fair, but that was one of those circumstances where you don't expect that to happen because you think it's a foul ball and then the ball skirts back," Royals manager Ned Yost said.

Catcher Brayan Pena gave chase, grabbed the ball and tried a desperation toss to first baseman Eric Hosmer, but it was too late.

"I've never seen anything like that before," Pena said. "It was clearly a foul ball and then I saw it spinning back and then it was a fair ball. I saw Sanchez coming on and I thought the only chance I had was myself and I was a little bit closer to it."

Give Dozier credit for alertly gearing up and tearing down the line.

"It was just spinning really, really hard. I was like, 'well, why not.' I'm dying for a hit. So let's take off and see what happens," Dozier said.

With Pena and Sanchez focusing on the foul-turned-fair ball, home plate was left uncovered and Ryan Doumit scored all the way from second base.

"[Pena] ran over like it might trickle back into fair territory," Doumit said. "At that point, it made the decision to round third easy for me. There was obviously no one there. It was one of those weird plays. I've never seen a ball with that much spin on it. I was just going off their reaction. They ran over like they knew something I didn't. So I just kept going."

That was just the first of four runs in the inning, pushing the Twins ahead 6-0 and pushing Sanchez out of the game. His final totals were six runs on 10 hits and six walks while using up 101 pitches (56 strikes). The Twins also stole five bases, executing two double-steals while he was on the mound and Yost conceded that Sanchez lost focus on the runners.

"He sure did," Yost said. "At times, when you're fighting your command, your whole focus and concentration is trying to get the ball over the plate and there was a couple of times where his focus was so intent that he forgot what was happening behind him."

Sanchez's fate could have been grimmer, except that two Twins runners were thrown out at the plate -- one by center fielder Jason Bourgeois to complete a double play and another by Hosmer.

Sanchez's only victory came in his first appearance for the Royals, on April 8 in Anaheim, and this was his fourth start since coming off the disabled list with biceps tendinitis. In his last three outings, he's given up 15 earned runs, 20 hits and 16 walks in 16 innings.

"Every time I go out there, I fight. I haven't had my best stuff, but even if I don't have my best stuff, I go out there and fight," Sanchez said. "I'm just in a slump. It's just not working. I'm not throwing anything that's working right now."

In the meantime, Twins left-hander Scott Diamond dominated the Royals for eight innings.

"He threw the ball well for them today," the Royals' Mike Moustakas said. "We hit the ball pretty good and they made some plays. Hoz [Hosmer] had two hits, Gordo [Alex Gordon] had a couple hits, but balls just weren't falling for us. We didn't get those hits when we needed them."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.