KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Joe Ryan had just pitched six innings of two-hit ball, helping the Minnesota Twins hold off the Kansas City Royals 1-0 on Thursday, when the California kid spotted a poster of Nolan Ryan hanging in the visiting clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium.
After such a dominant performance, it was a fitting backdrop for some postgame interviews.
“I’m just trying to make pitches, get outs,” explained the 25-year-old Ryan, who may not have that other Ryan’s blazing fastball but still mixed his own with a brutal slider to shut down Kansas City’s revamped lineup.
“I think that’s going to give our team the best chance to win a game.”
Miguel Sano‘s sacrifice fly off Zack Grienke in the second inning represented the game’s only run.
Jhoan Duran and Joe Smith then handed that slimmest of leads to Emilio Pagan, who worked around a leadoff walk in the ninth for the Twins’ first save this season. Their bullpen had blown both previous chances.
Ryan (2-1), who helped the U.S. win the silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics, allowed only a two-out single to Michael Taylor in the third inning and a triple to Andrew Benintendi in the fourth during his third straight impressive start. He walked one while striking out five, and has now allowed three runs on nine hits over his first 16 innings this season.
“He threw some strikes. He missed some bats. He did what you like to see,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said.
Greinke (0-1) allowed six hits and a walk while striking out five, and Kansas City’s bullpen kept the game close the rest of the way, running its scoreless streak to 21 1/3 innings – all to no avail.
“We have to get big hits. That’s just commonsense,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said.
Matheny tried to get the sluggish Royals offense going by shifting Nicky Lopez to the top of the order and dropping Whit Merrifield to second ahead of Benintendi and Salvador Perez. None of them had much success against Ryan, though, whose beguiling mix of pitches induced weak contact all afternoon.
Benintendi had the hardest-hit ball, a deep fly that bounced off the right-field wall for a triple. But he was thrown out by center fielder Nick Gordon while trying to score on Perez’s shallow fly ball to end the fourth.
The Royals committed another baserunning blunder in the fifth after Bobby Witt Jr. worked out a two-out walk. The club’s top prospect was caught leaving early in an attempt to steal second and was thrown out retreating to first.
The Royals, who along with San Diego began the day as the only teams yet to commit an error, nearly had their streak snapped when Adalberto Mondesi was given one for bobbling a difficult grounder by Luis Arraez in the sixth. The official scorer changed the call to a single the next inning.
Twins RHP Jorge Alcala (elbow inflammation) was shut down from throwing after experiencing “something that didn’t feel right,” Baldelli said. “We’re going to reset him to zero before we try to build him back up again.”
CLOSE TO HEAVEN
Farm clubs for the Twins (Cedar Rapids Kernels) and Royals (Quad Cities River Bandits) will play August 9 at the “Field of Dreams” movie site near Dyersville, Iowa. That’s two days before the Cubs and Reds play in the sequel to last year’s game between the Yankees and White Sox. Both of the Class A clubs will wear throwback uniforms.
The Twins and Padres finalized their April 6 trade that sent LHP Taylor Rogers and OF Brent Rooker to San Diego along with $6.6 million cash for Pagan and RHP Chris Paddack. Minnesota also received 19-year-old RHP Brayan Medina on Thursday. … RHP Jharel Cotton cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Saint Paul.
OF Kyle Isbel was optioned to Triple-A Omaha and RHP Ronald Bolanos recalled from the same club in the hopes of getting one of the Royals’ top prospects regular work. “He was written into the lineup two different times and the weather got the better of us,” Matheny said. “The thought process was to let him get some game play.”