KANSAS CITY, Mo.--The bullpen door opened and Bruce Chen lugged his 37-year-old frame to the mound. It was the 10th inning between the Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins, a nip-and-tuck affair about to be tossed away. Called into extra-inning duty, Chen reminded why he has only been used four times this month.
The Twins tagged him a six-run tally in the final frame of a 11-5 Royals defeat. Chen surrendered a one-out triple to Oswaldo Arcia, intentionally walked Trevor Plouffe and issued a walk to pinch-hitter Joe Mauer despite picking up a pair of strikes to start the at-bat.
The subsequent at-bats cost the Royals (74-59) a chance at a sweep and allowed the Tigers to creep one game closer in the American League Central. When the Indians arrive here on Friday, Kansas City will try to protect a 1 1/2 lead.
The game fizzled after the bases were loaded. Eduardo Nunez singled up the middle for one run. Jordan Schafer singled in two more. Chen gave up back-to-back doubles to Brian Dozier and Kurt Suzuki to complete the pillorying.
Ned Yost had emptied his bullpen during regulation. Jeremy Guthrie logged six innings of hit-prone baseball, giving up five runs on nine hits. Francisley Bueno picked up two outs, and Jason Frasor gobbled one of his own. With Wade Davis resting, Yost called upon Kelvin Herrera for the eighth and Greg Holland for the ninth.
When the game segued into extra innings, Yost settled on Chen. His performance cleared the room. The ballpark emptied as he suffered through the beating. A burst of sarcastic applause greeted the third out of the inning.
In the bottom of the seventh, Alex Gordon revived this building with his 17th home run of the season. An explosion emanated from the 17,219 fans here as his blast off reliever Ryan Pressley cleared the fence in right-center field.
Guthrie dumped his team in a two-run, first-inning hole. He allowed two hits in the first inning, a single to Dozier and a double to Suzuki. Dozier scored on a groundball out and Suzuki snuck home on an infield single by Arcia.
The Royals erased the deficit in the bottom of the inning. Gordon lifted an RBI single to right to bring home Alcides Escobar. Billy Butler passed on four consecutive fastballs from Twins lefty Tommy Milone. Each pitch registered between 84 and 86 mph.
Milone does not possess premium-grade weapons. Instead he relies upon deception and disruption of timing. He could achieve neither goal against Salvador Perez. Milone lost a seven-pitch matchup when Perez tied the game by lining a changeup into left field for an RBI single.
Like Milone, Guthrie rarely misses bats. The Twins commenced cracking him around in the fourth: A double by Chris Parmelee, an RBI single by Schafer, a walk by Danny Santana and another RBI single by Dozier.
Guthrie veers between the poles of excellence and mediocrity. In his last start before Thursday, he yielded one run in eight innings against Texas. In the two starts before that, he surrendered 10 runs in 11 2/3 innings. And the start before that? He spun the team's first complete game of the season.
His reliability may be in question. But the Royals continue to lean on him. Guthrie figures to be a prominent contributor down the stretch. Yordano Ventura missed his last start due to back soreness, and has lagged somewhat down the stretch. During the playoffs, Ventura could move into the bullpen, with Guthrie still in the rotation.
Of course, the Royals must reach October to solve these riddles. Down a pair of runs, the offense sought to even the tide. The team benefited from a defensive breakdown by the Twins. With two outs in the fourth, Milone caught Cain trying to nab second base. But Dozier dropped the baseball when fed by first baseman Chris Parmelee.
Granted an opportunity, Christian Colon came through. He fished for a changeup outside the zone and dumped it into right for an RBI single.
Escobar helped tie the game in the fifth. He lashed an 85-mph fastball into the right-center gap to start the inning. Arcia slid to cut off the ball, but Escobar dashed to third. Billy Butler punched a curveball back up the middle, through the drawn-in infielders, to plate his teammate.
Yet Guthrie remained unsteady. He issued a leadoff walk, a scourge to pitchers everywhere, in the sixth. Two batters later, Schafer stroked an RBI double down the right-field line, and the Royals trailed once more.
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