The Royals got a home run for their first walk-off victory this season from an unlikely source.
Alcides Escobar belted a no-doubter to left off Twins reliever Taylor Rogers with two outs in the 14th inning, giving the Royals a 2-1 triumph Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
"For all my homers, that's the best one," Escobar said. "I flipped the bat, a special moment right there. I celebrated after that."
As the innings piled up and midnight approaching for a game delayed 24 minutes at the start by rain, Escobar said he was thinking home run, for everyone else.
"For every guy, I'm saying, 'C'mon Salvy, C'mon Soler," Escobar said. "And I hit it."
The home run was Escobar’s first walk-off of his career. It was his second homer of the season and 39th of his 11-year career. He entered the game hitting .228.
The blast made a winner of relief pitcher Scott Barlow, who pitched four scoreless innings.. He figured to pitch on Wednesday in relief of Brad Keller, who will be limited to 55-60 pitches in his first scheduled start. But the Royals needed a long reliever Tuesday and Barlow was up to the task, producing half of the bullpen's eight scoreless innings.
“I was really pleased with (Barlow)," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He was the last man standing down there. He was going to go until we either won it or lost it.”
The pitching was superb throughout the game. Starters Danny Duffy and Kyle Gibson traded zeroes. Duffy departed after six innings trailing 1-0. Gibson left after seven in a position to grab the victory.
But the Royals tied it in the eighth. Jon Jay ripped a single through the box. Jay’s bunt single earlier had extended his hitting streak to 11. This hit gave him three straight with at least two.
One out later, Mike Moustakas singled and Salvador Perez was hit by a pitch. The Royals had early scoring chances, none this good.
Jorge Soler drew a full-count walk from Addison Reed, and the Royals had drawn even. But their chance to take the lead died when Hunter Dozier popped meekly to right and Alex Gordon struck out.
Whatever ailed Duffy through his first 10 starts — tipping pitches perhaps? — has been resolved, at least through his last two starts.
Counting last week’s outing at Texas, Duffy has surrendered seven singles and a double and two runs. He’s shaved more than a run from his ERA, from a season-worst 6.88 to 5.71, and worked with some solid defense on Tuesday.
"I feel like I'm getting back to who I am as a pitcher," Duffy said. "It was always in there. It's about using your stuff the way it's supposed to be used."
Gordon turned in the highlight play when the Twins loaded the bases in the third. Miguel Sano bounced a single to left, giving the Twins the lead. But it remained 1-0 because Gordon, a five-time Gold Glover, fired a strike to Drew Butera to cut down Brian Dozier for career outfield assist No. 84.
"He's done that for me a hundred times," Duffy said. "As soon as I saw that ball get to the outfield I was hoping they'd test him."
The play saved Duffy a run but he left the game with a deficit because the Royals could do little against Gibson, the former Missouri Tiger, who cruised through seven innings and was at his best when the Royals threatened.
Moustakas opened the sixth with a double and moved to third on a one-out passed ball. But Soler struck out and Dozier lined out to left.
A night after going 4-for-19 with runners in scoring position — the most they’ve had in scoring position in a loss since 2013 — the Royals went 0 for 9 in those situations on Tuesday.
But they finally got a big hit, from an unlikely source.
Defensive gems: Besides Gordon’s laser to home, the Royals turned in other highlight-worthy stops. In the sixth, second baseman Whit Merrifield went to his left to field a soft one-hopper from Max Kepler. Merrifield likely had a play at first, but he spun and threw out Eduardo Escobar, who had walked, at second.
Moustakas ended the Twins' seventh by gloving a bag-side smash from Brian Dozier. The Twins’ 14th frame ended when Soler went far to his right to flag down Eddie Rosario’s drive to the warning track.
Next up: The three-game series with the Twins concludes at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday with Brad Keller expected to make his first major-league start. Keller, 1-1, has been one of the Royals’ top relievers, with a 2.01 ERA in 22 1/3 innings with 13 strikeouts. A Rule 5 acquisition, Keller had a streak of 10 2/3 scoreless innings snapped in his previous outing, at Texas on Saturday.
The plan for Keller?
“Around 50-60 pitches,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “Then we’ll start the process of lengthening him out.”
Yost said before Tuesday’s game that Brian Flynn or Barlow would be the candidates to follow Keller but both pitched on Tuesday.
Keller, who has thrown as many as 43 pitches in a game this season, was a starter in the minor leagues. He’s starting in place of left-hander Eric Skoglund, who is on the 10-day disabled list because of a sprained elbow.
Keller will oppose the Twins’ Fernando Romero, 2-1.
The Royals are off on Thursday and open a three-game series against the Oakland A’s on Friday.