"Bad at-bats," Bell said. "Give a little bit of credit to the pitcher. But it's hard to do that when you get walked that many times and don't take advantage of it. It's pretty much on our hitters."
The loss left the Royals at 2-5 in one-run games already, and this one was particularly galling. Zack Greinke pitched brilliantly, allowing four hits over seven scoreless innings in his best outing this month. Even Kansas City's beleaguered bullpen chipped in, with Jimmy Gobble and Joel Peralta combining on three scoreless innings and five strikeouts.
Kansas City's only hit with runners in scoring position came in the top of the 10th, a sharp two-out single to right by Alex Gordon with Ross Gload (single, steal) at second. Third base coach Brian Poldberg held Gload at third rather than challenge Michael Cuddyer's strong arm in right.
"It's kind of a flip of the coin," Bell said.
But the Royals guessed wrong. Cuddyer's throw skipped far up the third-base line, so Gload would have scored easily. John Buck couldn't deliver the run, grounding out to
shortstop Jason Bartlett.
"You can look at one play as being a factor," Bell said. "But I don't think it's fair in this situation, because we had so many other opportunities."
Sanders showed no such caution in the seventh inning. When second baseman Alexi Casilla tried to tag him on a potential double-play ball, Sanders squared his right shoulder to knock the ball out of Casilla's glove and into center field. Sanders ended up at third, where he tagged up and tried to score after Bartlett ran out to catch Emil Brown's popup in shallow left.
It wasn't a bad gamble, since Bartlett has been shaky in the field, committing six errors in his first 19 games. Bartlett dropped to one knee for the catch, then popped up and threw a strike to Redmond
at the plate. Sanders was out by so much he didn't bother to slide.
"Nothing was happening," Sanders said. "I was trying to create something. He's got to get up and make a perfect throw, and he did."
The Royals had plenty of chances the first five innings against Twins starter Boof Bonser, who walked seven and allowed three hits. (Oddly, Bonser also struck out eight, fanning the side in the second and fifth.) Bonser walked the bases loaded with one out in the fourth, but Tony Pena Jr. bounced back to Bonser for a forceout at the plate before David DeJesus flied out.
Kansas City missed another opportunity in the sixth, leaving two on after Minnesota went to its bullpen. Glen Perkins, Matt Guerrier, Joe Nathan and winner Juan Rincon would team for six scoreless innings of two-hit relief.
Greinke, after a shaky first two innings, delivered his third quality start in five outings. Greinke walked his second and third batters of the game, Nick Punto and Joe Mauer, before pitching out of trouble.
Then in the second, Greinke hit Twins center fielder Torii Hunter in the mouth with a fastball leading off. Hunter took two steps toward the mound before thinking better of it. Hunter left the game and received three stitches on the inside of his lip at Abbott Northwestern Hospital. Three batters later Greinke hit Bartlett in the back with a 2-2 pitch to load the bases, but escaped when Casilla grounded into a double play.
"When I first hit him, I assumed it was like any other hit batter," Greinke said,
referring to Hunter. "Then I noticed I hit him in the face, and I was like,
'Oh, man.' I don't want to do that, ever. I felt bad about it. It didn't hit me until I came off the field, what actually happened." Greinke said he and Hunter spoke after the game.
Said Bell: "When you get hit in the face like that, you kind of go crazy for a second. I don't know what I'd do. I'm glad Torii got hold of himself before he went out there."
The pitches that hit Hunter and Bartlett were the only times all day Greinke said he tried to come up and in. "When that inning was over, I had to regroup," said Greinke, who allowed two hits over his final five innings.
Peralta quelled a potential game-deciding Twins rally in the bottom of the ninth, coming on to strike out Bartlett after Jason Kubel's two-out double off Gobble.
The Twins weren't particularly clutch on Wednesday, either. Minnesota stranded 11, and Redmond's game-winning hit was the only one the Twins managed in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position.