Royals fall for first time in '08
Squeeze play in fourth inning plates deciding run
MINNEAPOLIS -- Reality strikes. It's back to earth for the Royals. They won't win every game this season. No longer are they the Major Leagues' only undefeated team.
The Royals joined the rest of the common folk on Friday night, absorbing a 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins at the Metrodome.
"We knew it was coming sometime," said designated hitter Billy Butler, "but it was a tough one today. I didn't think, sittin' there in the fourth, when they did that squeeze, that it would be the deciding run."
Yet that's the way it happened -- with a squeeze play.
And the Twins didn't even seem to work very hard at it. Mike Lamb doubled into the right-field corner, Matt Tolbert bunted him to third then Adam Everett bunted him home. Just like that. No play at the plate or anything.
The Royals' infield was pulled in, too.
"We've got a guy that handles the bat really well in Everett," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "[He] took a big swing in the first pitch, and it looked like he was on the ball. Decided he's a National League guy, let's try something different and squeeze.
"And you know, Lamb did a super job at third base. He waited, waited, waited. He didn't leave too early, and Everett got it down. That's some of that National League stuff, and those guys know how to do those things."
The Twins were up, 4-3, and nobody came close to scoring the rest of the game.
Left-hander John Bale, starting his first game for the Royals, had a rather messy four innings -- nine hits and the four runs. Not that he got knocked around very much -- bunts and infield hits helped create the turmoil.
"I liked what I saw," said Royals manager Trey Hillman.
Carlos Gomez bunted for a hit, stole second and scored on Joe Mauer's single in the first. Mauer started the two-run third inning with a grounder that glanced off Bale's glove to shortstop Tony Pena Jr. and went for a single.
"If he hadn't touched that ball, Tony makes the play easy," Hillman said.
|"Well, the undefeated season is over, I guess, but we'll line up again tomorrow."|
|-- Royals' manager Trey Hillman|
"I thought I could have had that ball, and it went right off the leather there," Bale said. "I'm probably going to have take some more PFPs [pitchers' fielding practice] and try to get a little quicker on those."
Then came singles by Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau and a groundout by Delmon Young, producing the two runs and frustrating Bale.
Bale recovered nicely and lasted into the seventh inning. Left-hander Jimmy Gobble made his first appearance of the season, and the results were stirring.
"Jimmy did great," Hillman said. "You can't ask for better than that -- three hitters faced and three strikeouts."
Reliever Ramon Ramirez did all right as well -- he retired both batters he faced.
The Royals pounced early on Twins right-hander Scott Baker. Joey Gathright beat out a bunt, stole second and moved around as Mark Grudzielanek singled and Jose Guillen grounded out. Butler belted an RBI single for a 2-0 lead.
Grudzielanek had another hit later and is batting .500 (8-for-16) so far. Not bad for a guy who missed time in Spring Training with a bad back and is playing with a sore left hand.
The Royals added a run in the second on Mark Teahen's double and John Buck's single.
The fun stopped there.
"We put some good at-bats on him early but, obviously, [Baker] made an adjustment and we didn't," Buck said. "We got to their 'pen, but they've got a pretty filthy repertoire, those two [Pat Neshek and Joe Nathan]. They don't make it easy by any means."
Baker retired 11 batters in a row and breezed through two outs in the seventh. Neshek showed his filthy stuff for four straight outs and closer Nathan showed his dirty assortment in a scoreless ninth. When he threw a third strike past the gaze of Teahen, it was over.
The Royals' clean season was slightly soiled. After the joyous and unexpected sweep of the Tigers in Detroit, their ledger showed a loss.
They will not go 162-0 after all.
"Well, the undefeated season is over, I guess, but we'll line up again tomorrow," Hillman said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.