Four runs a game. That’s all it takes for the Royals. Four runs a game, which is still nearly half-a-run below the average for all other American League teams.
When the Royals score four or more runs, as they did Wednesday night, they turn into legitimate postseason contenders. Really. Check the numbers after their 4-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals are now 17-5 when they score at least four runs. Seventeen and flipping five. That’s what four runs does.
“The lineup just seemed to flow,” said designated hitter Billy Butler, who had three of the Royals’ eight hits. “It was a good lineup and we’re going to give it a shot for a little while now.
“You’ve got to give the stats guys a little credit sometimes, I guess. I’ll give that one to them because I liked that lineup.”
Manager Ned Yost, after consulting with the club’s stat analysts, sent out a new-look batting order that, among other things, had Eric Hosmer batting second and Salvy Perez batting third.
The retooled lineup produced four runs — the magic number — and it proved sufficient to halt a galling home losing streak that had reached a franchise-record 11 games.
“It always feels good,” Butler said, “especially when the weather was bad tonight, and we had some good fans out there that hung around. It was a tough streak and I’m glad it’s over.”
The victory also enabled Jeremy Guthrie to become the first Royals starter to win a game since Wade Davis on May 15. Let me save you a look at the calendar. That’s the first victory by a starter in three weeks.
It’s not like the Royals mashed the ball, but they did get three key hits, including a pair with two outs: a two-run double by David Lough in a three-run first inning, and an RBI single by Butler in the seventh.
Lough served a sinker from Twins starter P.J. Walters into left field.
“I kind of went with the pitch,” Lough said. “It was one of those sinkers away, and he kept it up a little bit. I stayed on top of it, and I was able to drive it that way.”
Lough’s double came after Perez erased an early 1-0 deficit by lashing a one-out RBI single just after Hosmer reached on a two-base error by shortstop Pedro Florimon.
Guthrie, 6-3, and the bullpen took it from there. Guthrie survived a 39-pitch first inning that included three walks by pitching through the sixth and limiting the Twins to one run.
“I walked a lot of guys in the first,” Guthrie said. “I didn’t throw a lot of strikes. Yeah, I changed. I started throwing strikes It was quite a dramatic change from not throwing them to throwing them.
“A bright light went on. I said, ‘If I walk guys, I probably won’t go very long.’”
Tim Collins inherited a 3-1 lead to start the seventh and got two quick outs before walking Justin Morneau on four pitches. Ryan Doumit followed with double to left on a 1-2 fastball that moved Morneau to third.
A walk to Chris Parmelee, who battled through a 10-pitch plate appearance, loaded the bases and brought Aaron Crow into the game to face Brian Dozier.
The Twins countered by sending up Chris Herrmann, who grounded out to short. The Royals then added an insurance run — the fourth run — in their half of the inning after Perez worked a two-out walk from Josh Roenicke.
Perez went to second on a wild pitch before Butler flicked a full-count slider into short right field for an RBI single. It as Butler’s third hit of the game.
Kelvin Herrera pitched a one-two-three eighth in his first appearance since a brief confidence-building sabbatical at Class AAA Omaha. Greg Holland closed out the victory for his 10th save in 12 chances.
The Twins didn’t go quietly against Holland, who yielded a leadoff single to Joe Mauer before walking Josh Willingham. Holland then struck out Morneau, Doumit and Parmelee.
“Those are situations,” Holland said, “where your bullpen’s got to hold a lead and we did that today. I started throwing strike one, which helped. The only real way for somebody to beat you up three runs is to walk a few guys.
“I fell behind and gave up a single then the walk. After that, I was able to command the strike zone a little better. I was able to get ahead and then expand the zone.”
Like Guthrie, Walters, 2-1, also struggled early — allowing three unearned runs in the first inning — but he also pitched through the sixth with no further damage.
Guthrie paid a penalty for starting the game by walking Eduardo Escobar despite jumping ahead 1-2 in the count. Mauer struck out, but Willingham lined a hit-and-run single through the vacated hole at second base.
Escobar scored on the play. Two more walks loaded the bases before Guthrie finally ended the inning when Hosmer, racing from first base, took away a Dozier foul pop from a fan by reaching into the stands.
The Royals...answered with three runs.
Minnesota mounted a one-out threat in the third, as a few raindrops began falling, when Guthrie nicked Willingham with pitch, and Morneau reached on an infield single.
Second baseman Chris Getz squelched the threat with a terrific diving stop on Doumit’s sharp grounder before turning it into a force at second. Parmelee ended the inning with a pop to Getz in short right field.
“That’s a big play,” Guthrie said. “A line drive. The pitch wasn’t a great pitch. Doumit put a tremendous swing on it. First and second, one out right there, we have a lot of problems if he doesn’t make that diving play.”To reach Bob Dutton, send email to email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Royals_Report