The Kansas City Royals capped off their short five-game home-stand, going 4-1 against the Chicago Cubs and Minnesota Twins, the ladder being a series sweep. Both opponents started their series against KC with the best record in their respective league.
After a 13-2 shellacking of the Cubs on Thursday, the Royals faced a quick turnaround. Into town, came their division rival sporting a sparkling 10-3 record. Featuring an offense aptly named “The Bomba Squad”, an homage to the Twins setting a new record in home runs just last season, as well as a great pitching staff, the Twins figured to be a tough challenge for the Royals.
Jakob Junis started his second game of the year, while Devin Smeltzer started for Minnesota. Just like his first start, Junis gave up two runs in four innings. Byron Buxton got the scoring started in the third inning as he took Junis deep. The Royals would respond in the bottom half with Nick Heath getting his second career RBI, knocking in Maikel Franco.
Minnesota would get the lead right back in the fourth on a solo home run to center by Marwin Gonzalez. The Royals would tie it up again when Nicky Lopez singled home Alex Gordon in the fifth. What followed was maybe the shortest rain delay ever. The players were called off the field and the tarp was being prepared to be rolled out. Until suddenly, it wasn’t.
Matt Wisler relieved Smeltzer, who had a solid outing. Brett Phillips walked, and Merrifield hit a long fly to left that looked gone. Jake Cave had other plans. Cave timed his jump perfectly, catching the ball on the top of the fence, saving at least two runs. The Royals would be unable to score that inning. After Greg Holland kept the game tied, Ryan McBroom came up and got one of the biggest hits in his young career:
The homer would put the Royals on top 3-2. Josh Staumont came out and threw gas, hitting as high as 101 mph on the speed gun. He landed awkwardly after a pitch, and as a precaution came out of the game. Scott Barlow was called upon and got the final out of the seventh, and then pitched a scoreless eighth.
Trevor Rosenthal would come out and try for his second save of the season. After getting the first two outs with ease, Nelson Cruz would pinch-hit for Ehire Adrianza. Rosenthal struck out Cruz, giving the Royals their first divisional home win of the 2020 season.
Player of the Game: Ryan McBroom
Pitcher of the Game: Greg Holland
Duffy ran into trouble in the fourth, giving up home runs to Nelson Cruz and Byron Buxton, the latter hitting a three-run shot giving the Twins their only lead of the game.
That lead would be short-lived as the Royals responded instantly against Twins relievers Lewis Thorpe and Cody Stashak in the bottom of the fourth. After a leadoff single by Maikel Franco, Nicky Lopez went yard for the first time this season, tying the game at 4-apiece.
After singles by Brett Phillips and Whit Merrifield, Soler belted his second home run of the game to center field, this time putting the Royals ahead for good. Salvador Perez followed with a solo shot of his own and gave fans probably one of my favorite Rex Hudler quotes ever. Just listen!
Hilarious. This was all done before an out was recorded in the inning, by the way.
The Twins would tighten the game, scoring a run in the sixth and seventh inning to close the game to 8-6. Then Adalberto Mondesi would manufacture a run all by himself by hitting an infield single, stealing second and third, and then scoring on a wild pitch for a very important third run of insurance.
Gabe Speier got two outs in the eighth, but Trevor Rosenthal came out for a four-out save. He struck out Cruz for the second night to seal the game and series victory for Kansas City. It was Rosenthal’s third save on the year. Should they start calling him Closenthal?
Player of the Game: Jorge Soler
Pitcher of the Game: Trevor Rosenthal
Brady Singer made his fourth start and was still in search of his first major league win. His opponent was José Berríos, who was making his fourteenth career start vs. Kansas City. Singer retired the first three batters, with Gordon being well, Alex Gordon, robbing Nelson Cruz of a hit.
After singles by Merrifield and Soler in the home half of the first, Salvador Perez hit a long flyout to advance the runners. Up came Dozier, who hit a grounder to the outfield, beating the shift. Both runners scored, giving Dozier his first two RBIs of the season.
The Twins would tie it up in the third. After recording the first out, Singer tried to field a ground ball hit by Byron Buxton with his pitching hand, but it deflected and led to an infield single. As a result, he was looked at by the trainer but stayed in the game. However, the Twins had the opening they needed and they capitalized on it. Max Kepler doubled home Buxton. Then, Jorge Polanco grounded out to score Alex Avila, who walked after the injury delay. Singer got out of the inning, but the damage was done, and the game was tied.
However, it didn’t take long for the Royals to respond. Merrifield drew a leadoff walk and took third on a soft grounder by Soler away from the shift. He came home on Perez’s sacrifice fly, giving the Royals a 3-2 lead.
Maikel Franco would give Berrios a parting gift, sending a shot over the left-field wall, giving the Royals a 4-2 advantage. Josh Staumont came out and pitched a perfect seventh and eighth inning, getting three strikeouts, including de-batting Byron Buxton:
With Rosenthal pitching the last two nights, manager Mike Matheny went to Scott Barlow to close out the game and series. Barlow would pitch a perfect inning, striking out two to slam the door. Royals pitchers amassed ten strikeouts on the day.
Player of the Game: Hunter Dozier
Pitcher of the Game: Josh Staumont
How Sweep it Is!
The Royals didn’t win any of the series and only won five games overall against the Twins last season. As good as the Twins looked in their games (and as bad as the Royals had looked in theirs), I thought winning four of the ten meetings this season would be a huge victory. Winning the first three changes it all. Four is certainly within grasp, if not being able to win the season series outright. Especially if the Royals want to make the expanded playoff field.
With the sweep, the Royals now sit just 3.5 games out of first place. They were dead in the water just five days ago. This speaks to how quickly baseball can turn. The Royals are officially back in the hunt!
The Royals get a well-deserved off day (their first of the season) before starting a six-game road trip. Two games at Cincinnati and four games against the Twins at Target Field. The week after that? The same two teams, but at Kauffman Stadium. Think the schedule makers were creative with that one? Either way, I think the Royals are happy to get a day of rest before continuing the climb back into playoff contention.
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