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Kansas City defeats reeling Twins 4-1 to cap three-game sweep

The Twins will open the 2023 season in Kansas City on March 30. It gives them — well, those returning — six months to forget the horror of this week’s visit to Kauffman Stadium.

Josh Winder allowed just three runs in six innings Thursday, making him the second starter on their eight-game road trip to make a so-called quality start, but the Twins offense remained in its early slumber of the season. The Royals homered twice, hit singles in four different innings and held the Twins to two singles to complete a three-game series sweep with a 4-1 win at Kansas City, Mo.

The lifeless loss completes a season-destroying 1-7 road trip, the Twins’ first to include seven losses since suffering three such calamities in 2018, and dropping them four games below .500. at 73-77, for the first time this year. It also reduces their number of eliminations in the AL Central race to just three, with nearly two weeks to play.

“[This is] probably as low as you can imagine,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli lamented. “I don’t know how it could be any harder for the group.”

Give it time. They still have 12 matches, including another road trip, to discover. The Twins are now 30-45 outside Minnesota, and only 5-23 outside Target Field since July 28; they haven’t had a worse 28-game road streak since the start of the 1982 season.

“You hit the road, you have to find ways to stay focused and stick to your routines. But we do those things. That hasn’t changed,” Baldelli insisted. “I haven’t seen anyone lose focus on the road. The performance hasn’t been as good on the road, but there’s really no reason for that.”

The Guardians and Royals might take offense to this because for a full week they dominated a Twins side that led their division for four months. Minnesota was outscored 41-24 on the eight-game trip and hit .211 with .266 on-base percentage and .305 slugging. Cleveland and Kansas City combined to post .282/.352/.453.

The Twins’ pitchers have posted a 4.52 ERA in all eight games, including 4.95 by their starters. Pitchers for the Guardians and Royals have allowed just 2.19 earned runs per nine innings, 2.66 by starters and a sparkling 1.76 by relievers.

“The base runners just aren’t there for us right now. The opportunities weren’t really there,” Baldelli said, particularly down the lineup. The Twins’ last four spots in the batting order combined to beat .179 (21 for 117) over the road trip; their three catchers combined to reach .120 (3 for 25). “We have to find ways to get things done in the middle and lower half of our command consistently. We have to find a way to score points in the line-up.”

Four points were far too offensive for the Twins to overcome on Thursday. They were held without a hit by Royals right-hander Jonathan Heasley until the fourth inning, when Carlos Correa beat a dribbler down the field. Luis Arraez, who dropped to third in the American League batting run at .313 going 5-for-27 on that trip (.185), followed a walk from Caleb Hamilton with the Twins’ other hit on the day -there, a simple line- lead to the right. Hamilton scored the Twins’ only point on a sacrifice fly ball from Nick Gordon.

Winder gave up back-to-back singles, with Bobby Witt Jr.’s stolen 28th base in the middle, to drive in a run for the Royals, and KC outfielders Edward Olivares and Drew Waters led the fourth and fifth innings, respectively, with Solo home runs on the Twins’ right-hander.

“Just left too many pitches in the middle of the plate, a lot of hard contact,” Winder said. “I ran away with a couple. I didn’t run away with others.”

Still, he struck out four, walked just one and finished strong, striking out six of the last seven batters he faced to tie the longest start of his career. But the Twins have lost the rookie’s three starts since returning from a two-month absence with a shoulder impingement.

“That’s not how we drafted it. We don’t play the baseball we know we can,” Winder said. “We still have a few games left and time to put on some good games. We’ll look to do that once we get home.”

The Star Tribune did not travel for this event. This article was compiled from the TV show and video interviews before and/or after the event.

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