Twins Drop Regular Season Finale But Claim Home Run Record
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Royals put a memorable finish on a forgettable 2019 season.
Jorge Soler locked up the AL home run crown with his 48th, Brett Phillips drove a game-ending sacrifice fly in the ninth inning and Kansas City beat the Minnesota Twins 5-4 in manager Ned Yost's final game.
"I'm sure everyone in the field in the top of the ninth was like, 'Give me that at-bat.' I know that's what was going through my head," Phillips said.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli turned over coaching duties to infielder Ehire Adrianza, and AL Central-winning Minnesota hit three homers to push its major league record to 307 this season — one ahead of the New York Yankees. Minnesota finished the season 101-61, one victory shy of the franchise record set in 1965.
"I don't think anybody will ever forget the 'Bomba Squad,'" Baldelli said.
Soler connected in the first inning, becoming the first Royal to lead the AL in home runs and surpassing Rafael Palmeiro for the most long balls by a Cuban-born player. The 27-year-old's previous career high was 12.
But the Royals also lost 100-plus games for the second straight season, finishing only two games better than last year at 59-103. Yost said he won't miss much about the game.
"There's not one part of me that wants to continue doing this," he said. "I've done my part. I want to go spend time with my family, especially my wife. We've been apart for six or seven months a year, for the most part. We're both healthy and we want to go do some things together.
"I'm very confident in my part in helping this team get back into fait condition. I'm walking out the door feeling good with no regrets."
Ian Kennedy (3-2) pitched a scoreless ninth before the Royals rallied against rookie Brusdar Graterol (1-1). Humberto Arteaga led off with a double, and Nick Dini moved him to third with a bloop single, setting up Phillips' fly to right that lifted the Royals to 59-103.
Kansas City's Hunter Dozier led off the eighth with his 10th triple of the season, matching teammates Whit Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi for the AL lead. It marks the first time since 1984 (Astros) that a team has had three players with at least 10 triples. Dozier scored on Ryan O'Hearn's tying double.
Baldelli tabbed Adrianza to lead because he thinks he has the makings of a future manager. Adrianza filled out the lineup card and called the shots during the game.
"It's kind of cool, A.D.'s first game managing on the same day that a very great and memorable manager on the other side is managing his last day," Baldelli said. "Going out to home plate was actually pretty nice, too. Ned mentioned that he's only gone out to home plate a few times over the course of his tenure. And I was very happy to be out there with him on his last day."
The Twins scored three runs in the first on back-to-back home runs by C.J. Cron —a two-run shot — and Jake Cave. It's the 12th time this season the Twins have homered back-to-back. Jason Castro added a solo shot in the fifth.
The Royals drew 17,875 in their final game. They finished with an average of 18,267 fans, 2,290 fewer than 2018.
Whit Merrifield became the second right-handed hitter to lead the majors in hits in back-to-back years (Kirby Puckett, 1988-89).
Twins Minnesota is uncertain if rookie 3B Luis Arraez will be ready for the AL Division Series after spraining his right ankle Saturday. "It could be a few days, it could be a week," said head athletic trainer Tony Leo. "We're not really putting a timeline on this one, obviously, with where we are." Arraez is hitting .334 in 92 games.
The Twins will have a few days off before opening their ALDS in New York on Friday. Baldelli has not named any starters for the ALDS.