Royals

Eric Hosmer carries Royals to 5-2 victory over the Twins

Eric Hosmer: Royals 'try to control what we can control'

Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning of Saturday's 5-2 win over the Twins at Kaufman Stadium on Sept. 9, 2017.
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Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning of Saturday's 5-2 win over the Twins at Kaufman Stadium on Sept. 9, 2017.

Eric Hosmer wanted something up. He wanted something he could barrel. So he fixed his eyes on a spot out over the plate.

It was the bottom of the eighth inning Saturday night, and Hosmer, the Royals’ first baseman and No. 4 hitter, stepped to the plate against Twins lefty reliever Buddy Boshers. The Royals needed a single for a run, needed a run to break a stalemate with Minnesota, needed a victory to maintain hope in a possible last-chance run for a postseason spot.

All night, Hosmer had been locked in at the plate, spraying two hits and drawing a walk. All season — well, certainly since May — he had been Kansas City’s most complete hitter. He’s batted .323 and posted career highs in on-base and slugging percentages, and in some ways, the performance has been wasted. The roster has been weighed down by a soft bottom of the order and an inconsistent pitching staff. The Royals are under .500 in early September.

But then came the eighth inning in a must-win game against a division rival. Lorenzo Cain led off with a single and exited for pinch runner Terrance Gore, resting his sore quad. Melky Cabrera walked. And Hosmer strode to the plate.

“With G-Baby on the bases right there,” Hosmer said. “You know they’re not gonna want to throw anything low and risk it being in the dirt.”

Hosmer was referring to Gore, but he used his nickname, an ode to the 2001 baseball movie “Hardball” with Keanu Reeves. He knew what Gore’s speed would do, so he looked for something up.

Hosmer saw a first-pitch curveball from Boshers and ripped a single to center field, scoring Gore from second base. The Royals tacked on two more runs, securing a 5-2 decision over the Twins at Kauffman Stadium.

“It’s big,” Hosmer said. “We need something. We need something to get us going.”

Hosmer finished 3 for 3 with a walk and run scored, continuing the finest offensive season of his career. He is batting .342 in 118 games since May 1. In the eighth, he recorded his 83rd go-ahead RBI since 2015, the second most in the American League.

In a tie game with two men on base, Twins manager Paul Molitor had called on a left-hander, seeking to neutralize Hosmer. Moments later, Hosmer made him pay.

“That’s a premier performer in this league,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.

The victory propelled Kansas City (70-71) to within 3  1/2 games of Minnesota in the wild-card standings. The odds of a late run remain unlikely. The Royals require another win on Sunday to avoid falling 4  1/2 games back with 20 to play. But for one night, they staved off the Twins, shaking off consecutive losses to start the four-game series.

“Tomorrow we can even out the series,” Hosmer said, “and just try and control what we can control.”

On Saturday, they controlled enough. Rookie starter Jakob Junis was splendid for 6  1/3 innings. Left fielder Alex Gordon supplied a rare opposite-field homer — his first of any kind since July 3 — in the bottom of the seventh. The blast tied the score at 2-2, and the Royals struck for three runs in the eighth, buoyed by a leadoff single by Cain, who finished 3 for 4.

Reliever Brandon Maurer earned a save in the ninth, his second for the Royals and first since Yost removed Kelvin Herrera from the closer role. Starter Jason Vargas will match up against Bartolo Colon on Sunday afternoon. At Kauffman Stadium these days, there is little margin for error.

“This was a big game for us,” Yost said. “It was a game we had to win.”

Early Saturday, the Royals’ clubhouse was business as usual, a mostly-empty room devoid of music, a collection of ballplayers preparing for another night of work. Inside his office, Yost discussed the possibility of starting pitcher Danny Duffy returning next week. On another side of the room, Brandon Moss sat near his locker and conducted a conversation about his year at the plate.

The Royals had dropped two straight games to the Twins, a ninth-inning heartbreaker on Thursday and an 8-5 decision on Friday. They sat 4  1/2 games behind their division foe in the race for the second American League wild card spot. Another loss Saturday would have left them 5  1/2 back with 21 games to play. In essence, it would be fatal.

Junis understood this. And for nearly seven innings, he offered a lifeline. In the12th start of his rookie season, he permitted just two solo homers in 6  1/3 innings, scattering eight hits while striking out seven. In his last six major-league starts, he has been a bright light in a dark second half, posting a 2.48 ERA with 34 strikeouts and two walks.

“I’m just been trying to do the same thing that I’ve been doing,” Junis said. “Not trying to put too much pressure on myself.”

Royals rookie starter Jakob Junis has not lost a decision in seven straight appearances, including six starts. He discussed his performance in the 5-2 win over the Twins at Kauffman Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 9. He threw 6 1/3 innings and allowed

By the end, he had made two costly pitches. Minnesota’s Eduardo Escobar led off the third by pouncing on an 0-1 curveball in the middle of the zone. Three innings later, Byron Buxton battled for 10 pitches, hammering a 3-2 sinker that tailed onto the inner half of the plate.

The Royals’ offense, meanwhile, had chances. Its run support was meager.

Cain tripled and scored in the bottom of the first. One inning later, the Royals loaded the bases with one out against Twins starter Jose Berrios. Whit Merrifield dug in and hacked at a fastball. The baseball rocketed off his bat at 101 mph. It went right at shortstop Jorge Polanco, who started the inning-ending double play.

By the seventh, the Royals still trailed 2-1. Gordon erased the deficit, depositing a 360-foot homer into the Kansas City bullpen, his first of the season to left field. The offense would stir again in the eighth. And Hosmer would deliver with two men on base.

“Just trying to see something up,” he said. “You know in those situations, when Terrance comes in the game, you’re looking.”

Royals manager Ned Yost was happy with rookie Jakob Junis' 6 1/3 inning performance in the 5-2 win over the Twins on Sept. 9, 2017 at Kauffman Stadium.

Royals 5, Twins 2

Twins

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Dozier 2b

5

0

0

0

0

1

.259

Mauer 1b

4

0

1

0

0

1

.305

Polanco ss

3

0

0

0

0

3

.258

Rosario lf-rf

4

0

2

0

0

1

.288

Buxton cf

3

1

2

1

1

0

.249

Kepler rf

3

0

1

0

0

1

.245

a-Garver ph

1

0

0

0

0

0

.212

Granite lf

0

0

0

0

0

0

.231

E.Escobar 3b

3

1

1

1

1

1

.259

Castro c

4

0

2

0

0

0

.232

Grossman dh

1

0

0

0

2

0

.251

Totals

31

2

9

2

4

8

 

Royals

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Merrifield 2b

4

0

1

0

0

0

.288

Cain cf

4

1

3

0

0

0

.298

1-Gore pr

0

1

0

0

0

0

.000

Orlando cf

0

0

0

0

0

0

.164

Cabrera rf

3

1

0

1

1

1

.293

Hosmer 1b

3

1

3

1

1

0

.323

Perez c

4

0

1

1

0

0

.261

Moustakas 3b

3

0

1

0

1

0

.279

Moss dh

4

0

0

0

0

0

.197

A.Escobar ss

3

0

1

1

0

0

.246

Gordon lf

3

1

1

1

1

1

.203

Totals

31

5

11

5

4

2

 

Twins

001

001

000

2

9

0

Royals

100

000

13x

5

11

0

a-grounded out for Kepler in the 8th. 1-ran for Cain in the 8th.

LOB: Minnesota 8, Kansas City 7. 2B: Perez (22), A.Escobar (30). 3B: Cain (5). HR: E.Escobar (17), off Junis; Buxton (14), off Junis; Gordon (6), off Berrios. RBIs: Buxton (43), E.Escobar (61), Cabrera (79), Hosmer (84), Perez (71), A.Escobar (44), Gordon (40). CS: Rosario 2 (8), Merrifield (4). SF: A.Escobar. S: Polanco, Grossman.

Runners left in scoring position: Minnesota 4 (Mauer, Castro 2, Garver); Kansas City 2 (Moustakas, Gordon). RISP: Minnesota 0 for 6; Kansas City 2 for 8. Runners moved up: Cabrera, Perez. GIDP: Dozier, Merrifield, Perez. DP: Minnesota 2 (Polanco, Dozier, Mauer), (Berrios, Dozier, Mauer); Kansas City 1 (A.Escobar, Merrifield, Hosmer).

Twins

I

H

R

ER

W

K

P

ERA

Berrios

7

8

2

2

2

1

94

3.94

Pressly L, 2-3

0

1

2

2

1

0

8

5.06

Boshers

0

1

1

1

0

0

1

5.23

Duffey

0

1

0

0

1

0

1

4.81

Rogers

0.1

0

0

0

0

0

1

3.29

Busenitz

0.2

0

0

0

0

1

5

1.82

Royals

I

H

R

ER

W

K

P

ERA

Junis

6.1

8

2

2

1

7

95

4.34

Minor W, 6-6

1.2

1

0

0

2

1

22

2.75

Maurer, S, 22

1

0

0

0

1

0

20

6.00

Pressly pitched to 2 batters in the 8th. Boshers pitched to 1 batter in the 8th. Duffey pitched to 2 batters in the 8th.

Inherited runners-scored: Boshers 2-1, Duffey 2-1, Rogers 3-0, Busenitz 3-1, Minor 1-0.

Umpires: Home, Andy Fletcher; First, Alan Porter; Second, Chris Segal; Third, Joe West. Time: 2:51. Att: 29,991.

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