Eight in a row. This one wasn’t great eight. It was, instead, maybe something more; something that only happens for good clubs on a roll.
How long has it been since the Royals fit that description?
The key moment Wednesday night probably occurred in the eighth inning when Aaron Crow bailed out Kelvin Herrera, but there were lots of decisive moment in this 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.
Jeremy Guthrie steadying after a soaring early pitch count. Catcher Salvy Perez with, perhaps, the defensive play of the year. The Royals taking advantage of an error by Twins shortstop Pedro Florimon for two runs.
All of that, and more, before Crow — and then Greg Holland — worked through stressful situations in the closing innings.
“I’d say this was one of the gutsier wins I’ve ever been a part of,” Guthrie said. “We had to battle, and we had four or five guys who were heroes tonight to win a 4-3 game. That tells you something about this team.”
The Royals built a 2-0 lead for Guthrie by scoring single runs in the second and third innings before breaking a 2-2 by scoring two unearned runs in the seventh inning.
Florimon’s error occurred on Eric Hosmer’s slow two-out grounder up the middle after an Alex Gordon triple. Hosmer then stole second before Billy Butler battled for 10 pitches before grounding an RBI single up the middle.
“Everybody in here doesn’t want to be the guy who ends the streak,” Butler said. “That’s the type of pressure we want to put ourselves in. The pressure is to be the guy who comes through to keep the streak going.”
Butler’s single pushed the lead to 4-2.
Then it was a matter of holding on.
The end arrived when Holland weathered a threat in the ninth inning after Joe Mauer reached second on a one-out infield single and a throwing error by shortstop Alcides Escobar that went into the Minnesota dugout.
Escobar made a diving stop and probably should have just held the ball.
Holland responded by striking out Justin Morneau and Ryan Doumit for his 21st straight successful save and his 28th overall in 30 opportunities.
Guthrie, 11-7, got the victory after yielding two runs in six innings. Caleb Thielbar, 1-1, was the loser after yielding those two unearned runs in the seventh.
The eight straight victories boosted the Royals to 53-51 and marked their longest winning streak since opening the 2003 season by winning nine in a row.
Herrera replaced Tim Collins to start the eighth and immediately gave up successive doubles to Doumit and Trevor Plouffe. Both were line-drive rockets into the left-center gap.
Herrera struck out Chris Herrmann before Aaron Hicks’ squibber up the first-base line stayed fair and resulted in a single that moved Plouffe to third.
Chris Colabello batted for Pedro Florimon, which prompted a countermove by the Royals to replace Herrera with Crow.
Colabello struck out on a check swing, but Hicks stole second on the full-count pitch. Crow then preserved the lead by striking out Clete Thomas.
“I was trying to get Colabello to hit into a double play,” Crow said. “Then I got into position to go for a strikeout. I was fortunate enough to get out of it.”
Guthrie carried a 2-1 lead into the sixth inning but found trouble when the Twins loaded the bases with no outs on singles by Mauer, Morneau and Doumit.
Plouffe soft hopper to third resulted in a force at home, but Herrmann drew a four-pitch walk that forced in the tying run.
But Guthrie stopped it there. Hicks popped to second, and Florimon, who had homered in the fifth, struck out.
That run enabled Minnesota starter Kevin Correia to exit with a no-decision. He gave up 10 hits, but just two runs, in six innings.
Thielbar started the seventh and yielded a two-out triple to Gordon, which turned into the go-ahead run when Florimon couldn’t handle Hosmer’s soft grounder up the middle.
Casey Fien replaced Thielbar and, after Hosmer stole second, lost a 10-pitch battle to Billy Butler, who drove an RBI single up the middle for a 4-2 lead.
“Just find a way,” Hosmer said. “On first right there, we’re up one, and I figured I might as well take a chance late in the game. I steal that bag, and there no one better in that situation than Billy.”
The Royals then opened the scoring in the second when David Lough sprinted his way to a one-out double to center — and then got a great read on a Miguel Tejada liner just over a leaping Carroll at second for a 1-0 lead.
The Royals stretched their lead to 2-0 in the third after Gordon led off with single and went to third on Hosmer’s double over Thomas’ head in left.
Butler sent a drive to right that scored Gordon, but Herrmann threw a laser to third that nailed Hosmer for a double play. Herrmann’s throw was reminiscent of Jeff Francoeur at his best.
Perez’s gem came to start the Twins fifth after Hicks appeared to put down a perfect bunt. Perez jumped quickly on the ball and threw a dart to first for the out.
That play looked even bigger when Florimon followed with a homer to right.
“That’s the we’re playing right now,” Butler said. “We’re doing all of the little things right. That’s what wins ballgames. Crow coming in and getting big outs. Holly shutting the door.
“Everybody is stepping up and doing their job right now.”
Eight in a row. And counting.