Royals

Alex Gordon’s grand slam lifts Royals past Twins 8-1

Alex Gordon connected for a grand slam in the fourth inning against the Minnesota Twins on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium.
Alex Gordon connected for a grand slam in the fourth inning against the Minnesota Twins on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. jsleezer@kcstar.com

Alex Gordon connected on the high fastball and knew he’d gotten enough. He immediately opened his right palm, letting his bat fall to the dirt while starting a slow walk to first base, making sure to watch his home run sail into the night.

The defining moment of the Royals’ 8-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Thursday night was a homegrown outfielder showing off his signature swing. The fourth-inning grand slam that bounced its way into the right-field fountains helped the Royals to a fifth straight victory and also highlighted the most encouraging part of the team’s recent surge.

That would be Gordon, who hadn’t looked like himself most of the season after signing a four-year, $72 million contract in January.

It has all changed recently. Gordon had been the Royals’ hottest hitter heading into Thursday’s game, batting .429 with a .520 on-base percentage over his past seven games.

“He’s getting pitches to hit now,” Royals manager Ned Yost said, “and he’s not missing them.”

That continued as the Royals started a four-game homestand, the team improving to 61-60 and moving above .500 for the first time since July 23.

Gordon’s earlier struggles could have been partly attributed to injury. The outfielder missed a month with a broken bone in his wrist following a May 22 collision with teammate Mike Moustakas.

Whether that was part of it or not, his offensive profile had changed dramatically in 2016. His strikeout rate soared to a career high, while his inability to make contact with pitches out of the strike zone contributed to an average that hovered most of the year in the low .200s.

“I’ve been working hard with Dale (Sveum), our hitting coach, trying to get out of it,” Gordon said. “Just trying to keep my head up, working hard.”

The adjustments continued to pay dividends in the the fourth inning, as Gordon worked his way to a favorable 3-1 count before uncoiling on Tyler Duffey’s fastball. It was Gordon’s third career grand slam and also marked the second time in his 10 seasons that he’d homered in three straight games.

“There’s a lot that comes into it, but I’m definitely seeing the ball a lot better, and with results come a little bit of confidence,” Gordon said. “Just feeling a lot better than I have been all year. It’s good to be in this situation right now.”

The Royals won for the 10th time in 12 games, remaining nine games behind first-place Cleveland and 6  1/2 games out of a Wild Card spot.

The Royals also received a rare standout effort from a fifth starter. Dillon Gee delivered with his longest outing of the year, going seven innings while surrendering one run with seven strikeouts.

“I feel like I was throwing everything pretty good tonight,” Gee said. “The command of the off-speed stuff and fastball command got better throughout the game. It just felt a lot more free and easy.”

Gee’s only blemish came on the game’s fourth pitch, as Brian Dozier sent a leadoff home run to left center. Dozier has now homered in six straight games against the Royals, matching an opponent record set by Ken Griffey Jr.

On the day the Royals brought Rally Mantis Jr. — the team’s second insect good-luck charm — home from Detroit, they watched as a few breaks went their way in the critical fourth inning.

With two on and one out, Eric Hosmer hit a weak dribbler to Duffey, but Hosmer was able to avoid a double play by barely beating the throw to first.

After a Kendrys Morales walk loaded the bases, Salvador Perez lofted a high, harmless flyball down the left-field line that threatened to end the rally. Instead, it landed foul in the first row of seats, and Perez was hit by the next pitch, tying the game and moving the line forward for Gordon.

Moments before the 3-1 pitch, the Royals showed a “Rally Mantis” pump-up video on the Crown Vision videoboard. Gordon hammered the next pitch to right.

And at this point — the Royals are now 4-0 with Rally Mantis Jr. on the bench — it’s hard to say if that was coincidence or not.

“It just seems like we’re having a lot of fun right now,” Gordon said. “In the dugout out there, everybody’s just jelling together. Obviously, winning helps that.

“The team’s in a good spot right now.”

Jesse Newell: 816-234-4759, @jessenewell

Royals 8, Twins 1

Minnesota

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Dozier 2b

4

1

1

1

0

1

.267

Polanco ss

4

0

1

0

0

1

.317

Mauer dh

4

0

0

0

0

2

.281

Plouffe 1b

4

0

0

0

0

0

.255

Kepler rf

4

0

1

0

0

1

.259

Sano 3b

3

0

0

0

0

2

.248

Rosario cf

2

0

1

0

1

1

.271

Suzuki c

3

0

1

0

0

0

.282

Grossman lf

3

0

0

0

0

1

.262

Totals

31

1

5

1

1

9

Kansas City

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Orlando cf

4

0

0

0

0

2

.318

Cuthbert 3b

4

2

3

0

0

1

.296

Cain rf

3

1

1

0

1

0

.283

Hosmer 1b

4

2

1

1

0

1

.273

Morales dh

3

1

1

1

1

1

.244

Perez c

3

1

0

1

0

0

.254

Gordon lf

4

1

1

4

0

1

.219

Escobar ss

2

0

0

0

1

0

.257

Mondesi 2b

3

0

0

0

0

2

.206

Totals

30

8

7

7

3

8

Minnesota

100

000

000

1

5

1

Kansas City

000

500

03x

8

7

0

E: Rosario (4). LOB: Minnesota 4, Kansas City 2. 2B: Cuthbert (20), Morales (17). HR: Dozier (27), off Gee; Gordon (11), off Duffey. RBIs: Dozier (73), Hosmer (70), Morales (57), Perez (52), Gordon 4 (24). SB: Kepler (5).

Runners left in scoring position: Minnesota 1 (Grossman); Kansas City 1 (Gordon). RISP: Minnesota 0 for 2; Kansas City 4 for 7. GIDP: Mauer, Cain. DP: Minnesota 1 (Polanco, Dozier, Plouffe); Kansas City 1 (Hosmer, Escobar, Gee).

Minnesota

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Duffey L, 8-9

3 2/3

2

5

5

3

4

63

5.93

Tonkin

1 1/3

1

0

0

0

1

9

3.90

Dean

3

4

3

3

0

3

52

5.60

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Gee W, 5-6

7

5

1

1

1

7

84

4.52

Young

2

0

0

0

0

2

26

5.91

Inherited runners-scored: Tonkin 1-0. HBP: Duffey (Perez).

Umpires: Home, Todd Tichenor; First, Brian Knight; Second, Stu Scheurwater; Third, Bill Miller. Time: 2:15. Att: 30,599.

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