Royals third baseman Hunter Dozier back into the swing of things
Hunter Dozier’s bat returned to the Royals lineup, and it certainly hasn’t hurt the guy hitting in front of him — Alex Gordon.
That duo served as catalysts for Saturday’s eighth-inning rally, and they picked up where they left off on Sunday.
Cleanup hitter Dozier homered and doubled while Gordon blasted a pair of RBI doubles out of the No. 3 hole in the lineup as the Royals earned a four-game series split against the division-leading Minnesota Twins with Sunday’s 6-1 victory at Kauffman Stadium.
Dozier (2-for-4) and Gordon (2-for-4) combined to drive in five of the team’s six runs in front of an announced 21,257 who watched the Salute to the Negro Leagues game.
The Royals wore Kansas City Monarchs throwback uniforms, while the Twins wore St. Paul Gophers threads.
The Royals (27-51) will hit the road for series against the Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays to close the month of June.
Along with Dozier and Gordon, Whit Merrifield and Billy Hamilton also registered two hits apiece.
“I felt better today,” Dozier said. “Hopefully I’ll keep feeling better with my timing and get back to where I was. Today was good.”
Dozier, returned from the injured list prior to Friday’s game, he hadn’t played since May 30 because of an oblique injury.
He played in minor-league rehab games for Double-A Northwest Arkansas on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and drove back to Kansas City following Wednesday’s game. Thursday, his wife gave birth to the couple’s second child, a baby girl named Blake.
“I wanted to get back as soon as I could to get back into a routine,” Dozier said of rejoining the team during a hectic week.
Prior to his IL stint, Dozier ranked among the American League leaders in batting average (fifth, .314), on-base percentage (sixth, .398) and slugging percentage (fifth, .589). He’s one of three finalists at third base in the American League All-Star voting.
After Gordon’s RBI double in the eighth inning to start Saturday’s rally, Dozier hit the game-tying two-run single to help force extra innings.
“Putting him and (Jorge) Soler together in the middle of the lineup with guys that can get on base in front of them, it’s huge,” Gordon said. “They just have different kind of power, all over the field. Especially in this park, it helps with our lineup. So it’s just another weapon with Soler to put in the middle of that order.”
Sunday, the Royals used five consecutive one-out hits to score five runs in the third inning of what had been a scoreless game. Hamilton lined a single into center field with one out. Then, with Hamilton running on a 1-0 pitch, Merrifield perfectly executed a hit-and-run for a single through the hole on the right side to put runners on the corners.
Nicky Lopez dropped a bunt single down towards the first that drove in the game’s first run. Gordon followed with an RBI double, and Dozier smacked an 0-1 slider over the left field wall for a three-run home run — his 12th of the season and his first since May 26.
“It lengthens the lineup,” Royals manager Ned Yost. “Quite frankly, (Cheslor) Cuthbert swinging the bat well makes a big difference for our lineup. I was thinking today, it’s going to be pretty neat when we get (Adlaberto Mondesi) and Hunter back in there and have our guys back swinging the bat again. But it’s been a big boost getting Dozier back in that lineup, for sure.”
The Twins got a run back right at the start of the fourth inning when Eddie Rosario hooked a solo home run down the right field line and around the foul pole for his 20th home run of the year.
Rosario’s homer snapped starting pitcher Homer Bailey’s consecutive scoreless innings streak at 16 2/3 innings, which spanned two complete outings and went into a third.
Bailey limited the damage to one run, but he threw 30 pitches in the fourth and gave up two hits and a walk. Bailey threw 108 pitches in 5 1/3 innings and allowed just one run on five hits and one walk. He struck out five, including Rosario to end a 14-pitch at-bat in the sixth.
Scott Barlow came out of the bullpen and finished off the sixth without giving up a run. Brad Boxberger and Kevin McCarthy combined for a scoreless seventh, though Boxberger gave up a single and hit a batter. McCarthy also hit a batter, loading the bases before an inning-ending fielder’s choice.
Gordon added his second RBI double of the day in the seventh, and that gave the Royals a five-run advantage again.
McCarthy pitched the final 2 1/3 innings and earned his first career save.