MIKE COOK, Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Trevor May was better Monday night, but it wasn’t enough for the Minnesota Twins.
In his second career start — and third overall appearance — May pitched into the fifth inning before control problems resurfaced and the Twins lost 6-4 to the Kansas City Royals.
Erik Kratz homered twice after replacing an ailing Salvador Perez, and Jason Vargas pitched seven strong innings to help the first-place Royals take three of four in the series. They have won 13 of 15 and 21 of 26 to open a two-game lead over idle Detroit in the AL Central.
Oswaldo Arcia and Trevor Plouffe homered for Minnesota.
May (0-2) allowed seven hits and three earned runs in 4 2-3 innings. He walked four and struck out one.
In his first nine major league innings, he’s walked 13 batters and struck out three.
“Going into this outing I really wanted to focus on one pitch at a time. I felt like I did it much better this time than the last couple times. It’s all about taking a step forward, keeping it simple and getting back to the basics,” said May, who was 8-6 with a 2.93 ERA at Triple-A Rochester.
May made his debut on Aug. 9, and it was a rough one. He walked seven in two innings and gave up four runs. In 2 1-3 innings of relief last Tuesday in Houston, he gave up two earned runs and walked a pair.
“He was executing pitches. He kept the Royals’ hitters off balance for the most part. It was the walks that hurt him tonight,” said Twins bench coach Terry Steinbach, who took over after manager Ron Gardenhire was ejected in the first inning.
After breezing through four innings of his home debut, May walked the bases loaded in the fifth.
Perez followed with a two-run bloop single and Billy Butler added an RBI single to give the Royals a 3-0 lead.
“The difference between a walk or an out sometimes is making one pitch. I wasn’t able to make a couple there and then I paid for it,” May said. “If you get yourself in trouble, the other team’s job is to make you pay for it and they did.”
That was enough for Vargas, who has dominated the Twins this season. He retired 10 in a row from the second through sixth while his offense built him a cushion.
Vargas (10-5) allowed one run on four hits and struck out three, but had his scoreless innings streak snapped at 17 when Arcia hit a solo homer in the seventh.
Trevor Plouffe hit a three-run shot off Aaron Crow in the ninth inning, but Greg Holland came on for his 38th save in 40 tries.
When Perez left, Kratz came in as a pinch hitter and drove a pitch just over the wall in left field for a 4-0 lead. He added a solo shot to center in the ninth for his first multihomer game.
Royals: Perez is day to day with a sore knee.
Twins: Byron Buxton, one of the top prospects in baseball, flew to Fort Myers, Florida, to begin his recovery after a nasty outfield collision at Double-A New Britain. GM Terry Ryan said Buxton had a stiff neck and some headaches, but nothing more serious. Ryan said he doubts Buxton will play again this season.
“We’re all fortunate it ended up the way it ended up,” Ryan said. “We’ve seen collisions in our day, but that one ranked right up there.”
The Royals open a two-game interleague series in Colorado. RHP James Shields (11-6, 3.29 ERA) starts the opener against LHP Tyler Matzek (2-8, 5.50).
The Twins stay home for a three-game series against Cleveland. RHP Kyle Gibson (11-9, 3.96) starts the opener against RHP Trevor Bauer (4-7, 4.35).
When plate umpire Chris Segal called Joe Mauer out on strikes in the first inning, the mild-mannered first baseman argued that he fouled the third strike and it hit the dirt before Perez caught it. Segal disagreed, and Gardenhire came to Mauer’s defense before returning to the dugout.
Moments later, Segal ejected Gardenhire after being asked to check the ball. It was the fifth time this season and 72nd time in his career that Gardenhire was ejected.
Steinbach said the play is not reviewable.
“The luxury of having replay — you could see that it did hit the dirt,” Steinbach said. “The umpires don’t have that in this particular situation.”
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