The Twins' frustration over their September free fall is showing. Rocco Baldelli had to make it clear Tuesday that he doesn't like it.
The Royals hit two home runs against Dylan Bundy, Salvador Perez poked a soft liner down the right field line for a tiebreaking double, and the Twins blew a 3-0 lead and lost for the fifth time in six games, 5-4 in Kansas City, Mo.
Gilberto Celestino singled in two at-bats, but the rookie outfielder was benched by Baldelli after four innings for some bad baserunning and bad attitude.
“[Celestino] owes it to his teammates to do a better job. That was the message”
Celestino singled during the Twins' three-run second inning, and was on third base with one out when Luis Arraez hit a fly ball to left fielder MJ Melendez. Rather than tag up and score after the catch, the rookie strayed too far up the third-base line and couldn't advance when the ball was caught. Carlos Correa followed with a two-out, two-run single, so the gaffe didn't cost the Twins a run, but Baldelli took note.
"There are some hard lessons sometimes in this game. He's a guy who can take a hard message," Baldelli said. "He's a pretty intelligent, aware young man who has made some mistakes during the games. He knows it and he needs to make adjustments."
In his next at-bat, leading off the fourth inning, Celestino worked the count to 3-1, then took a pitch that was well inside. But when home-plate umpire Malachi Moore ruled it a strike, Celestino complained, then grounded out and walked slowly past home plate on his way to the dugout.
"He had a pitch called in that at-bat that wasn't a good pitch, but you have to finish your at-bat. You have to go out there and keep playing your game," Baldelli said. "Then he walked all the way back toward the plate. Basically it held the game up more than anything."
Baldelli spoke to Celestino in the dugout, then removed him from the game.
"He owes it to his teammates to do a better job," the manager said. "That was the message."
Frustration is common around the Twins these days, though, and even Kauffman Stadium isn't a safe haven anymore. The Twins, who had won four straight games in Kansas City, were attempting to beat the Royals for a franchise-record eighth consecutive game.
But coming off a season-sabotaging weekend in Cleveland, it simply added to their irritation. The Twins dropped eight games behind the Guardians in the AL Central, but they are now down to only 14 games remaining. Their "elimination number" — after Cleveland's 10-7 victory over the White Sox in 11 innings Tuesday, and given that the Guardians also win any tiebreaker — is now only seven losses or Guardians wins with two weeks left in the season.
This being a Twins game, there were injuries, too, though none considered serious. Gio Urshela and Gary Sanchez were removed after being hit on the hand by pitches in the eighth inning, but Baldelli said they appear to be OK.
Nick Gordon, whose two home runs were some of the Twins' few highlights in Cleveland, stayed hot with three hits Tuesday, including two doubles. But one of those doubles came with two out in the fifth inning, when he tried unsuccessfully to stretch the hit into a triple.
Carlos Correa also collected three hits, the first of which, a two-out single in the second inning, capped the Twins' three-run inning. It was notable as one of the few clutch hits for the Twins, who went 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position, all night.
Even more notable for Correa: He threw out Royals speedster MJ Melendez at home plate with the game tied in the seventh inning, catching Jake Cave's throw from left field on Bobby Witt Jr.'s double off the wall and firing it to Sanchez to retire Melendez.
Unfortunately, the next batter, Royals catcher Salvador Perez, looped a fastball from Fulmer into right field, just inside the foul line, scoring the go-ahead run.
Melendez also crushed a two-run homer over the center field wall off Bundy to begin Kansas City's comeback, and later singled and scored on Witt's infield hit against Griffin Jax. Hunter Dozier also homered for the Royals, who improved to 6-11 in September.
The Star Tribune did not travel for this event. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the event.