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Smeltzer launches brilliant outing but Twins absorb 3-2 loss to Kansas City


The Twins’ grand plan can now be revealed. They demoted Devin Smeltzer last week after brilliant back-to-back outings to motivate him to throw better.

Genius.

Smeltzer, properly chastened by four days at St. Paul, outdid himself on Thursday by pitching a career-high seven shutout innings, holding the Royals to a meager two singles and never allowing a Kansas City baserunner to reach the second base.

One problem: The Twins hitters only had one extra base hit, failed to take a base-loaded threat with no out, and squandered the Smeltzer gem, absorbing a 3-2 disappointment at Target Field.

The loss was the Twins’ second straight loss, their first straight loss in two weeks, and in both cases their starting pitcher was leading with a lead. In this case, it was 2-0, with Ryan Jeffers and Gilberto Celestino providing hits.

Wielding a fastball that only recorded 90 mph twice all night, Smeltzer helped the Twins record their sixth shutout of the season. The southpaw allowed a single to Andrew Benintendi in the first inning and a two-out single to Hunter Dozier in the seventh, facing just two batters over the minimum. Smeltzer’s curveball and switch cheated Kansas City all night, and his six strikeouts are the most of his career since sniffing out seven Brewers in his big league debut in 2019.

Smeltzer, who limited the Royals to five hits and a run last Friday at Kauffman Stadium before being optioned to the minors minutes after the game ended, improved to 4-0 with a 1.59 ERA in seven career appearances against the Royals.

And twice in six days he dueled KC rookie Daniel Lynch, who was sharpened again on Tuesday. The former first-round pick allowed seven hits in 5 1/3 innings, but only Jose Miranda’s brace in the fourth inning – and the Twins infielder would have been out at second base if Nicky Lopez had kept the throw from Benintendi – went for additional bases.

Still, a walk and single in the second inning set up Jeffers’ RBI on the left, and Miranda’s brace produced a second run when Celestino pushed an opposite field line down the right field line for the second. point of the Twins.

It looked like an overkill as long as Smeltzer was guessing the Royals. But when Tyler Duffey relieved in the eighth inning, the game quickly turned. Emmanuel Rivera lined up a unique single. Pinch hitter Ryan O’Hearn did the same, but to right field. And Whit Merrifield timed a 1-0 curve ball and drove it into the gap to the center right, a brace that put the two runs in front of him to score and tie the game.

After Benintendi walked, rookie Bobby Witt Jr. took advantage of Duffey’s biggest mistake, a two-strike curve left that drifted onto the plate. Witt hammered it to left center and Merrifield easily scored the go-ahead.

The Twins threatened to reclaim the lead late in the eighth, when Gary Sanchez hit a field error and Gio Urshela and Luis Arraez chained hits into the outfield, loading the bases. But Jose Miranda watched a Royals third strike closer to Scott Barlow, pinch hitter Nick Gordon swung on the third strike and Max Kepler deployed at third base to preserve the Royals lead.

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