Royals bounce Twins with rubber-game victory
Pitchers rack up 16 strikeouts as KC claims sixth straight series
KANSAS CITY -- Danny Duffy is back on the mound, Alex Gordon is back in the groove and the Royals are back in the win column.
Gordon belted a home run and a double for two RBIs as the Royals' bats came back to life in a 5-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium. Gordon broke out of a 1-for-23 skid.
"When you get hits it always feels good," Gordon said. "No matter how you're hitting it's all about winning games and that's what we've been doing so it really hasn't affected me too much. At the end of the day if you look up and we've got the W, that's all that matters."
The Royals, shut out on Tuesday night, won the series, two games to one. It was their sixth straight series win -- the longest streak since the 1991 club won nine straight series. They're also the only Major League team to win all of its series since the All-Star break this year.
Since the break the Royals have won 15 of their 19 games.
"When we left Spring Training, we thought we had a good team. When we had a bad May, we still believed we had a good team," manager Ned Yost said. "And when we got to the All-Star break and we were six games under .500, we still believed we had a good team. Young guys take time to jell and when they jell and they figure it out, they take off. We didn't know when that was going to be. We were hoping it was going to be after the All-Star break, but it's happened."
Duffy's return to the Royals was relatively brief in terms of innings, 3 2/3, but rather lengthy in terms of pitches, 93. He gave up two runs, six hits and two walks but also struck out seven.
"Electric stuff, a little over-hyped at times," Yost said. "He struggled with command, but it was a good first step for him."
The big thing was that the lefty's back from the elbow injury and Tommy John surgery that kept him out of the Major Leagues for almost 15 months -- and that he's looking healthy and sound. Duffy's fastball registered from the mid-90s up to 99 mph.
"I'm not at all happy or pleased with my efficiency, but the team won so that's all that matters at this point," Duffy said. "I was part of a win and next time I'll be better. Next time, I'll go deeper.
"It felt great. I couldn't feel my legs in the first inning, I was pretty excited. It's just a whole different feel in this clubhouse than it was last year, a whole different feel. I'm just so happy and proud to say I made it back."
Twins leadoff man Brian Dozier gave him a tough welcome back, working him for eight pitches and then belting a triple to left-center. Then, he scored on Duffy's wild pitch, one of 31 pitches he'd throw in the inning. The other run came in the fourth on Clete Thomas' walk and Dozier's double to left.
Crucial for the Royals was that, by using only starter James Shields and now-demoted reliever Will Smith in Tuesday night's loss, the relief corps was rested and ready to take over for Duffy.
"I wanted to have a fresh bullpen for today, knowing that this might be a possibility and we can protect a one- or two-run lead from the fourth or fifth inning on, and that's exactly what happened," Yost said.
The bullpen finished the job for Duffy with 5 1/3 scoreless innings. Chipping in were winning pitcher Louis Coleman, Tim Collins, Aaron Crow, Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland who notched his 30th save.
The Royals' pitchers combined for 16 strikeouts, third-most in Twins history for a nine-inning game.
"Ultimately, we had too many strikeouts. I don't even know how many times we struck out but too many," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Their young kid [Duffy] was winging it pretty good. He had a great arm and the ball was flying all over the place, so he made us uncomfortable. He was able to find a changeup after the first inning, which was pretty decent pitch for him. The bullpen came in and did a great job."
After Duffy departed to a salute of appreciation from the crowd of 20,198, the Royals took a 3-2 lead.
Gordon drove a long home run to center field to start the fourth against right-hander Samuel Deduno. It was Gordon's 11th this season. Another run scored on successive singles by Miguel Tejada, Brett Hayes and Alcides Escobar. It was also Escobar who drove in the Royals' first run, following Hayes' double with a knock to right.
Deduno was 3-0 with a 0.93 ERA in three previous starts against the Royals.
"He's had all kinds of success against us," Yost said. "We'd never come close to beating him and I think we had like 12 hits off him tonight and scored four runs so it was a big night for us against him. He's a tough pitcher."
Back-to-back doubles by Billy Butler and Gordon produced the Royals' fifth run against lefty Caleb Thielbar in the seventh. It was the 200th double of Gordon's career -- and his first since July 8.
The Royals hold a 12-4 advantage over the Twins in their season series, the most wins they've ever had against Minnesota in one year. They were 11-7 in 1975 and 11-8 in 2003.
Duffy got right into the winning spirit.
"It's fun, it's awesome, everyone's so happy," he said. "We lost [Tuesday night] and you would have thought we were on a 10-game losing streak. Every game counts and it is so cool to see that kind of winning culture in this clubhouse."