MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Swept at home for the first time this season, the Minnesota Twins lost their division lead over the Kansas City Royals.
Torii Hunter lost his cool, and even part of his outfit.
Alex Gordon hit a three-run homer, Edinson Volquez struck out six batters over seven innings and the Royals beat the Twins 7-2 on Wednesday, a night spiced up in the eighth inning by an ejection of Hunter that preceded his equipment-throwing tantrum.
“Just a lot of emotions, man,” said Hunter, whose team scored only 11 runs while stumbling to a 1-5 record on this home-stand. The Twins hadn’t been swept at all since the opening series of the season at Detroit.
The frustration was evident in the eighth, when Hunter was heaved by home plate umpire Mark Ripperger for arguing a called third strike. Hunter had to be restrained briefly, before yanking off his elbow pad, shin guard and batting gloves and throwing them toward the batter’s box.
For good measure, Hunter ripped off his jersey and threw that over the first-base line, before retreating to the dugout.
“We have bad days, all of us, as hitters, pitchers. Even umpires have bad days, and he had one. So what can you do?” Hunter said.
Manager Paul Molitor was given his first career ejection during the conflict, too.
“I became a sideshow to the big show, from what I hear,” Molitor said. “But those things, they happen in a game. They happen with different umpires, good umpires, and we’ll just move on.”
Manager Ned Yost called Hunter’s “a bit entertaining.” The Royals had plenty of reasons to smile after this game.
“A lot of times you just see yelling and screaming and they walk off. There was some strip teasing going on there,” Yost quipped.
Volquez (5-4) pitched the Royals to victory by reaching the seven-inning mark for only the second time in his last nine starts. Trevor Plouffe homered in the eighth and had an RBI single in the third, but there weren’t any other threats.
Kyle Gibson (4-4) found a groove after Gordon’s big hit, finishing six innings with six strikeouts while allowing five hits and two walks, but he had little help.
“Anytime you go out and give up four runs, it just puts more pressure on the offense,” Gibson said. “So really it’s just a frustrating outing.”
This series provided a poignant reminder that the Twins haven’t really caught up to the reigning American League champion Royals even if they spent the past week in first place from the thrust of their 20-7 mark in May. The Twins had the best home record in the league, until the Royals arrived this week and dropped them to 20-12.
“I told them in there, ‘You don’t determine the fate of your season in June. That just never happens, one way or another,'” Molitor said.
Gibson had a 2.03 ERA in the five previous starts of his career against the Royals, and he was in command again.
Except for that first inning, with the big hit by Gordon.
“Left a changeup right over the middle. When you don’t execute against good teams, you’re going to pay for it,” Gibson said.
Hunter’s ejection might have been entertaining, but it won’t be a laughing matter to the Twins and their struggling offense if he’s suspended by Major League Baseball.
“I don’t want to try to predict or speculate how league offices are going to respond to his actions,” Molitor said. “I’m sure it will be reviewed and concerned as to whether a suspension is appropriate or not.”
The Twins will recall right-handed reliever Michael Tonkin from Triple-A Rochester before Friday’s game at Texas, for Tonkin’s third stint with Minnesota this season. Tim Stauffer, who signed a one-year $2.2 million contract this offseason and had a 6.60 ERA in 13 games, was designated for release or assignment.
Shortstop Jorge Polanco went 1 for 3 with a walk in his season debut and was charged with one of three errors by the Twins. He was returned to Double-A Chattanooga after the game. Minnesota will make a corresponding roster move before Friday’s game, likely reinstating outfielder Eddie Rosario from paternity leave.
After an off day, the Twins travel to Texas for a three-game series. Tommy Milone (2-1, 4.55 ERA) will start on Friday for the Twins against fellow Wandy Rodriguez (3-2, 3.25 ERA) of the Rangers.