Minneapolis — With the ball surprisingly flying out of Target Field, the Kansas City hitters lamented not doing enough in two games against the Minnesota Twins.
Joe Mauer, Josh Willingham and Chris Parmelee homered off Luke Hochevar to propel the Twins a 5-1 win Saturday and sweep of the day-night doubleheader.
Trevor Plouffe hit a home run in the opener as Minnesota won 7-2 and stopped the Royals’ four-game winning streak.
Billy Butler hit his 16th home run of the season leading off the second inning in the nightcap. But overall, Kansas City was outhomered 4-1 during the day by a Minnesota team that entered the day last in the American League with 59 home runs.
“The first game we were dead,” Royals outfielder Jeff Francouer said. “It carried over to the second game. We’re a much better hitting team than to do what we did today. It’s disappointing. Probably for me the most disappointing day of the year. Coming in here with two games and getting swept today like this, it’s not good, especially after we gained all that momentum coming back.”
Kansas City couldn’t take advantage of the hitting conditions on a warm day at Target Field, which has played often as a big park in its two-plus seasons.
“All of those balls that were hit are going out of any park,” Butler said. “So, it didn’t matter where we were playing at. Just well-hit balls. The ones they hit, too, they were well hit. It had nothing to do with the park.”
The Royals mustered just three runs and 13 hits against the Twins’ young starters, Scott Diamond and Cole De Vries.
Conversely, the Royals’ pitching staff had allowed an AL-low 59 home runs and Hochevar had permitted only six home runs in 87 innings this season.
Hochevar (5-8) allowed five runs and eight hits, losing for the first time in four starts. The right-hander entered the game having thrown 16 2-3 consecutive scoreless innings after stopping Houston and Tampa Bay, and had given up only two home runs in his previous 42 2-3 innings.
“I didn’t feel like my breaking stuff was very sharp today,” Hochevar said. “It was just, kind of like, looping in there, didn’t have any bite. So, two of those home runs came with two strikes when I’m trying to put a guy away, and I just felt like my curveball didn’t have that finish, that bite.”
After Mauer’s two-out single in the first, Willingham homered. In the second, Parmelee hit his first homer of the season on a shot to deep right. Mauer’s solo homer to left-center, the former AL MVP’s first since June 2 and fourth overall, barely cleared the wall to make it 4-1 in the third.
Kansas City started Jonathan Sanchez (1-4) in the first game and he issued six walks and was done after 4 1-3 innings. He is 0-2 with a 6.21 ERA since coming off the disabled list on June 13 following a left biceps injury.
“It’s a slump, you know?” Sanchez said. “It’s not working. I’m not doing anything that’s working right now.”
Sanchez, who had a promising 2010 season that included 13 wins and a 3.07 ERA, was acquired in a trade with San Francisco in November, with the Royals parting with Melky Cabrera in the deal. While Cabrera is one of the NL’s leading hitters this season, Sanchez has allowed six runs in his past two starts and four or more in four of his last five.
Sanchez also appeared to lose focus Saturday, which allowed Minnesota to steal a season-high five bases.
“At times when you’re fighting your command, your whole focus and concentration is trying to get the ball over the plate,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “There were times when his whole focus was this way that he forgot about what was happening behind him.”
Sanchez pitched five effective innings to win at the Los Angeles Angels in his first start of the season, but has struggled since that April 8 outing. He is 0-4 with a 7.19 ERA in his last nine starts.