Royals

Royals roll over Twins, complete sweep with 7-2 victory

Kansas City Royals’ Alex Gordon hits a three-run home run off Minnesota Twins pitcher Kyle Gibson during the first inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, June 10, 2015, in Minneapolis.
Kansas City Royals’ Alex Gordon hits a three-run home run off Minnesota Twins pitcher Kyle Gibson during the first inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, June 10, 2015, in Minneapolis. AP

From his location at first base, Eric Hosmer stood in the front row for the meltdown of Torii Hunter. This series began on Monday with Minnesota in first place. It ended on Wednesday night, three games and three Kansas City victories later, with the leader of the Twins partially disrobed and fuming in a last-second attempt to invigorate his club.

With a 7-2 triumph, the Royals hammered their hosts to complete a sweep and fortify their place atop the American League Central. They held Minnesota to three runs in 27 innings. The strain caused a tantrum from Hunter that left the Royals unable to hide their enjoyment.

“I’m just glad I got a good seat,” Hosmer said. “I’m just enjoying the show.”

The Royals (34-23) harbor a sizable amount of respect for Hunter, a veteran of 19 seasons. But his actions could only incite laughter after he disagreed with an eighth-inning strikeout call from umpire Mark Ripperger. His ejection was swift, and so was the ejection of Twins manager Paul Molitor. What followed was comedic gold.

The rest of the umpiring crew restrained Hunter as he hollered at Ripperger. He swore and shook his head. A bit of inspiration struck him as he exited the diamond. He ripped off his elbow pad, his shin guard and his batting gloves. As a final gesture, he yanked off his shirt, flung it onto the ground and all of a sudden, “there was some striptease going on there,” manager Ned Yost said.

The crowd at Target Field erupted. It was one of the few moments of enjoyment for Twins fans during these three nights. The surreal scene looked culled from the minor-league backwoods, not the site of a stadium hosting two clubs locked in a division race.

Then again, in these three games, Kansas City unearthed the flaws found on the Minnesota roster. After two tight contests to open the series, the Royals rolled to finish off a sweep, win their fourth game in a row and set up a clash with St. Louis that pits the team with the American League’s best record against the team with the best record in the National League.

“For us to come here, going through a rough stretch, and just really locking in this series, it’s a big-time statement,” Hosmer said.

To increase Kansas City’s division lead to two games, Alex Gordon crushed a three-run homer in the first. Minnesota provided access to three unearned runs later in the game. Volquez (5-4, 3.07 ERA) logged seven innings of one-run baseball and struck out six. He finished with 115 pitchers, more than any thrown by a Royal in 2015.

“We just came to the ballpark to win the game,” Volquez said. “We don’t get crazy. We’re playing good right now, and we took three out of three.”

For Minnesota, the last line of the defense against a sweep was right-hander Kyle Gibson. He entered the game with a 3.00 ERA. In five previous career starts against Kansas City, he was 4-1 with a 2.03 ERA. Yost pointed to the bite of Gibson’s slider as the source of his success against the Royals.

“We’re a really good fastball-hitting team,” Yost said before the game. “And teams that can command their slider fairly well give us a little bit of a problem.”

Kansas City utilized speed to start the game. Alcides Escobar led off with an infield single. Mike Moustakas took a walk. Gibson threw four fastballs in a row to Eric Hosmer. With the count at 2-2, he tried a changeup. Hosmer rolled a single through the right side of the infield to score Escobar.

Gordon arrived with two on and two outs. The count ran full. Gibson let a changeup float over the middle. The baseball did not stand much of a chance. A three-run rocket traveled 378 feet and into the stands above right field.

Gordon displayed a hint of levity as he rounded the bases. He extended his hand to third-base coach Mike Jirschele. When Jirschele went to slap Gordon five, Gordon pulled his hand back and ran it over his helmet, a recreation of a kindergarten prank on the game’s biggest stage.

“I’ve done it to him before,” Gordon said. “Just having fun. It won’t be the last time.”

And so Volquez inherited a four-run lead. Despite the surge, the team required him to soak up innings. Both Wade Davis and Greg Holland had pitched in the previous three games. Yost indicated they were unlikely to appear on Wednesday. Volquez gave up a run in the third, but navigated through trouble in the fifth and the sixth.

The Royals benefited from a series of Minnesota errors. Hunter and rookie shortstop Jorge Polanco committed gaffes in the fifth that led to a run. Polanco booted a grounder that could have been converted into a double play. Hunter scooped the ball in right field and uncorked a throw without a recipient nearby. As the Twins bumbled around, Escobar jetted from first all the way home.

The keen eye of advance scouting coordinator Bill Duplissea, who also runs the team’s replay challenges. A throw from first baseman Joe Mauer appeared to net a force-out at second base. Inside the clubhouse, Duplissea scanned the footage.

“Any time there’s any double play, I usually just freeze everything,” Duplissea said. “It was just the first angle I looked at.”

The foot of Polanco was inches off the bag. He rang up bench coach Don Wakamatsu inside the dugout and relayed his finding. Wakamatsu called out to Yost.

“Challenge it,” Wakamatsu said.

“Challenge what?” Yost replied.

In this moment, expediency topped clarity. Yost left the dugout to talk to the umpires. He told them he was challenging the call at second base. He avoided specifics.

The umpires overturned the call. Two batters later, Moustakas flared an RBI single. Lorenzo Cain drove in a run with a productive groundout. Trevor Plouffe would hit a homer off Luke Hochevar in the eighth, but by that point, it was all over but the disrobing.

In the waning moments of this sweep, Hunter stole the show. Yet it is worth remember what drove him to such a display. The Royals arrived at Target Field as challengers. They exited three victories later once more atop the division.

“To get out of town sweeping the series, it’s a good feeling,” Yost said. “That’s a good feeling.”

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4730 or send email to rmccullough@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @McCulloughStar. Download True Blue, The Star’s free Royals app, here.


Royals 7, Twins 2

Kansas City

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

A.Escobar ss

5

2

2

0

0

0

.265

Moustakas 3b

4

1

1

1

1

0

.318

L.Cain cf

4

0

1

1

0

2

.281

Hosmer 1b

4

1

1

1

0

0

.300

K.Morales dh

4

0

0

0

0

0

.287

A.Gordon lf

3

1

1

3

1

2

.257

Rios rf

4

0

0

0

0

2

.220

S.Perez c

4

1

2

0

0

0

.286

Infante 2b

4

1

0

0

0

1

.212

Totals

36

7

8

6

2

7

Minnesota

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Dozier 2b

3

0

0

0

1

0

.261

Mauer 1b

4

0

1

0

0

2

.260

Plouffe 3b

4

1

2

2

0

1

.250

Tor.Hunter rf

3

0

0

0

1

2

.268

Herrmann rf

0

0

0

0

0

0

.174

K.Suzuki c

4

0

0

0

0

0

.228

K.Vargas dh

4

0

2

0

0

2

.250

S.Robinson lf

4

0

0

0

0

0

.227

Hicks cf

4

1

1

0

0

1

.256

J.Polanco ss

3

0

1

0

1

0

.333

Totals

33

2

7

2

3

8

Kansas City

400

010

200

7

8

1

Minnesota

001

000

010

2

7

3

E: Moustakas (5), Tor.Hunter (3), Mauer (3), J.Polanco (1). LOB: Kansas City 4, Minnesota 7. HR: A.Gordon (7), off Gibson; Plouffe (9), off Hochevar. RBIs: Moustakas (20), L.Cain (24), Hosmer (36), A.Gordon 3 (28), Plouffe 2 (32).

Runners left in scoring position: Kansas City 1 (Hosmer); Minnesota 3 (Tor.Hunter, Plouffe, Mauer). RISP: Kansas City 3 for 8; Minnesota 1 for 8. Runners moved up: Dozier. GIDP: Hosmer, S.Robinson 2. DP: Kansas City 2 (A.Escobar, Infante, Hosmer), (Moustakas, Hosmer); Minnesota 1 (J.Polanco, Dozier, Mauer).

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

W

K

NP

ERA

Vlquez W, 5-4

7

6

1

1

3

6

115

3.07

Hochevr

1

1

1

1

0

2

20

5.63

Frasor

1

0

0

0

0

0

11

0.49

Minnesota

IP

H

R

ER

W

K

NP

ERA

Gibsn L, 4-4

6

5

5

4

2

6

117

3.24

Graham

3

3

2

0

0

1

44

2.63

Umpires: Home, Mark Ripperger; First, Jeff Kellogg; Second, Brian O’Nora; Third, Alan Porter. Time: 2:56. Att: 28,434.

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