The Monterrey Kid Spoils the Day

class=img_thumbleft>Against a backdrop of empty seats, seemingly undistracted by the ignominy of hot dog wrappers tumbling at his feet, the Royals' Jorge De La Rosa shut down the Twins through eight strong innings, giving up but one run against five hits. This young wayfarer is no stranger to baseball, having come up from Monterrey (home of the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame) and spending time in the Diamondbacks and Red Sox organizations before trudging through three seasons with two woebegone Midwestern clubs, the Milwaukee Brewers and now the Royals (he came to Kansas City last season). Already this year he's shut down the Tigers once, and might be sitting on a gaudy 4-0 record if the offensive half of his team would get the job done once in awhile (he gave up four runs in a loss and a no-decision to the Blue Jays and Tigers, respectively). Today, the Royals hitters were just good enough, in the Twins 3-1 loss.

As a Royals fan, celebrating a series win against a team predicted to hit the playoffs is probably all you can hope for this year. That your club--the Royals today, the Devil Rays, Mariners, Orioles and whoever else fails to meet expectations--will send a division- or wild card leader tumbling out of contention. The Royals, you might recall, fought valiantly against the Tigers in September of last year, sweeping three games and taking away their division title on the very last day (and after a pair of incredible comebacks). Perhaps this September, when the Twins miss the playoffs by one game, we'll look back on this afternoon's contest with a grimace.

For this was a game that might have been won with some patience. De La Rosa began the thing shaky. The Twins pounced on him right away, when Punto and Mauer both cracked hits and Cuddyer walked, loading the bases with one out and the reigning MVP at the plate. But De La Rosa was nonplussed. He struck Morneau out on four pitches and Torii drove the first pitch deep into center field... but not deep enough. No more jam.

Did I mention that this was the first inning? You should know that De La Rosa retired sixteen straight after that.

How our own Ramon Diogenes Ortiz, The Barber of Cotui, The Cynic, who sat on a 3-0 record and a 2.48 record at the dawn of this Sunday, must have stared in disbelief as he tried--and succeeded, really--to keep the Twins in the game. The wind was on his side, blowing baseballs out toward the fences, which is good for long-ball hitters like Cuddyer and Morneau and Hunter (and groundball pitchers like Ortiz), and doesn't hurt a pitcher who can get them to ground out. Sure, he gave up a two-run home run in the third, to Ross Gload, 'way out to center. And got out of that inning with only a two-run deficit, stranding a pair as well. What more can a journeyman pitcher do? The Twins have some power, can manufacture runs, they say, and all-in-all Ortiz gave up but three runs. And earned a loss.

Watching the game on the telly, I recall hearing Blyleven notice that the Twins were hitting pitches right away--bad news against De La Rosa, who's noted for his wildness. That sounds par for the course in beating the Detroit Tigers I've come to known and love these past two seasons, a free swingin', low-walkin' club if ever there was one. But the Twins play this small-ball, tiny-bitey piranha thing, and when no one, not one single Twin, runs the count full, well, you'll get beat by a guy like De La Rosa. You won't see good pitches to hack. Seven Twins were out on the first pitch, and six of those were fly outs (De La Rosa had but seven ground-outs). Wait for it, boys, make him throw, make him walk some, then make him toss a pitch or two into the heart of the plate and then smack him around. The Twins today appeared utterly flummoxed.

In this division, and during this difficult year, we need to take as many games as we can from the likes of Kansas City. Granted, you can't win them all in this long summer, but taking two of three against the lowly Royals (who won their first series this season) is absolutely essential. For the Royals, they're busy just watching the kids grow and hopefully get better, en route to a .500 season in the year 2010. But the Twins are hoping to raise the pennant now--to do that, they can't waste performances like Ortiz' today, nor refuse to wait for walks.

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