Meche stays winless with loss to Twins

Meche stays winless with loss to Twins

KANSAS CITY -- Cold night. Game-time temperature of 41 degrees and a stiff wind that made it feel like 31. Not only were the Royals frozen out at the plate, snow began to fall as they drove home.

Yeah, it was that kind of a night for the Royals. Miserable.

Livan Hernandez and two henchmen from the Minnesota Twins' bullpen ganged up on the Royals, 5-0, with 16,691 hardy, heavily clad fans on hand Friday night at Kauffman Stadium.

Despite the loss, the Royals maintained first place in the American League Central with a 6-4 record.

Gil Meche, the Royals' No. 1 starter, got nailed for all five runs plus a line drive off the bat of Brendan Harris. Meche was struck on his left hamstring but recovered the ball and threw out Harris to end the third inning.

"It was probably one of the hardest-hit balls I've taken off the body. It stung pretty bad. I didn't know what was going to happen going into the dugout," Meche said.

"I never sat down again for the rest of the game. I knew if I would, it'd tighten up and get stiff on me and I wouldn't be able to go out and throw."

Bruised but unbowed, Meche remained in the game for three more innings and shut down the Twins nicely.

"I got my aggressiveness up a little bit, probably from just being so aggravated by giving up five runs and then getting hit in the leg," Meche said. "I pretty much gave it a 'whatever happens' attitude and got through three pretty good innings and got some good punchouts."

Even so, he was dealt his second loss, and both have come courtesy of the Twins and Hernandez.

Four Minnesota runs scurried home in the second inning after Meche had walked two and struck out two.

"He worked behind in the count, uncharacteristically, especially for Gil," manager Trey Hillman said. "When you see him working behind in the count, something's out of sync. I'm sure the conditions had something to do with it, but they're conditions everybody had to go through."

In the frame, Denard Span singled for his first Major League RBI. Carlos Gomez hit a line drive toward left field that Mark Teahen figured he had a chance to catch.

"Off the bat, I felt like I did. Obviously, a line drive is the toughest play in the outfield, but I just kept going back and it just kind of kept riding on me," Teahen said.

The ball went for a two-run double.

"Typically, I think Mark catches that ball," Hillman said. "It's not an easy catch. He was close to it but just couldn't glove it, and things dominoed on Gil from there."

Matt Tolbert followed with an RBI single, and Meche was down, 4-0. Justin Morneau, who'd banged a three-run homer against Meche last Saturday at Minnesota, led off the third with a blast over the right-field wall.

Meantime, Hernandez was yielding hits -- seven in his seven innings -- but no runs. His soft stuff was maddingly efficient.

"Same ole, same ole," Teahen said. "Nothing to blow you away, but he moves it in and out and has some movement. You'd think a guy that throws that slow you should get to. It's aggravating."

The Royals had a bases-loaded chance with one out in the fifth after singles by Alberto Callaspo, Joey Gathright and Teahen. Jose Guillen, his day brightened earlier by the voiding of his 15-day suspension, missed a chance to celebrate. He struck out swinging at a slow curve. Hernandez got Billy Butler on a tap and the threat was snuffed out.

When Hernandez wrapped up his seven innings, Jesse Crain pitched a scoreless eighth inning. Butler singled with two outs, extending his hitting streak to all 10 games (15-for-39, .385) of 2008, but was thrown out trying for a double.

Closer Joe Nathan gave up a two-out double to John Buck in the ninth but notched his third save.

The Royals, who swept the Detroit Tigers and won two of three from the New York Yankees, now have lost three of four games against the Twins.

That was no warming thought on a bitterly cold night for the Royals and Meche.

"I had no problems with the weather," Meche said. "I just didn't pitch well."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.