Bannister, Hochevar struggle as KC falls
Returning from injury, hurlers take their hits against Twins
MINNEAPOLIS -- Brian Bannister and Luke Hochevar were back at work but they had a rough first day at the office.
The Royals' two returning starters combined to give up 10 runs as the Minnesota Twins charged to a 10-3 victory on Tuesday night at Target Field. That delighted the sellout crowd of 38,816 because the win pushed the Twins 4 1/2 games ahead of the Chicago White Sox, who lost at Detroit.
Bannister started the game, lasted just 2 2/3 innings and the third inning was a six-run disaster. The Twins put six hits with a walk and a wild pitch and sent 10 batters to the plate.
"I thought his first inning, the second inning was OK and the third was just a bit of a struggle," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He got one pitch away and couldn't make that one pitch. But we didn't help him much in the field."
It began with Denard Span's single, a bad-hopper that re-injured first baseman Billy Butler's right hand and sent him out of the game. Bannister retired the next two batters but never got the third out. The Twins loaded the bases and Delmon Young stroked a two-run single.
After a wild pitch, J.J. Hardy drilled a single for two more runs. Matt Tolbert launched a drive toward the right-field wall that hit off of Jai Miller's glove for a triple and a 7-0 Twins lead.
"I'm just physically having trouble throwing any offspeed pitch," Bannister said. "I got away with throwing all fastballs down in Triple-A and it just doesn't happen at this level. I threw some decent ones but my control was still spotty and you're just not going to beat a good team at this level throwing fastballs, especially below-average ones."
Bannister's right shoulder that put him on the disabled list still isn't completely sound.
"It's still not there," he said.
The triple ended Bannister's first game since August 2. To protect his shoulder, he was on a 60-pitch limit and he threw 55 (33 strikes). Greg Holland relieved him and got the third out.
Hochevar, back from an elbow strain, rode "piggyback" to Bannister and he didn't have much luck either. In the fourth, the Twins loaded the bases and Young belted a two-run double, giving him four RBIs.
"Delmon came up in a lot of big situations," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They kind of pitched around Thome-dog and Delmon was there to pick it up. That's what has to happen."
Hochevar faced seven batters, gave up three hits and plunked a batter in that fourth inning.
"My arm felt good. I came out a little geeked up and ready to take on the world," Hochevar said. "In the next two innings, I felt like I settled in better and made some good pitches, made some bad pitches. But just take that and build on it."
In the sixth, Jim Thome -- again -- hoisted a blast to right field for the 586th home run of his career. That tied Hall of Famer Frank Robinson for eighth on the all-time home run list. This volley barely missed the flagpole that Thome struck with his monster shot in Monday's game and this one was estimated at 452 feet compared to 480.
Hochevar's pitch was high and away.
"That pitch was definitely not where I was trying to go with it," Hochevar said. "That's what happens when you make a mistake, especially to good hitters like that -- they hit it a long ways."
Hochevar, in his three innings, gave up three runs on five hits. Also on a 60-pitch limit, he threw 53 (33 strikes).
"I felt like I could've gone more, so that's a good sign," he said.
Hochevar had a much longer layoff, pitching for the first time since June 11, and he felt absolutely nothing negative from his right elbow.
Yost said he probably wouldn't piggyback the two pitchers again and likely would start Hochevar on a regular five-day turn. If Bannister goes back in the rotation on a regular basis, Yost wasn't certain which starting pitcher would come out.
There were a couple of offensive moments for the Royals.
Josh Fields, in his third game after hip surgery, provided the Royals' first of two runs off left-hander Francisco Liriano with a home run just over the left-field fence. It was Fields' first homer in a Kansas City uniform.
And outfielder Jarrod Dyson got his first Major League at-bat in the ninth inning as a pinch-hitter for Alex Gordon. Twins reliever Pat Neshek walked him on four pitches.
There wasn't one pitch to hit.
"That's what I was looking for, something to swing at," Dyson said. "But I'll take a walk, too. I was really banking on a hit, though."
Dyson also got around the bases, scoring his first run on Gregor Blanco's single.
"Too bad they threw him four balls," Yost said. "Throw the kid a strike, dadgumit, in his first big league at-bat. Let's watch him run."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.