Royals snap skid at home behind big first inning
Perez, Butler shine in reworked lineup; Guthrie recovers nicely
KANSAS CITY -- Welcome back home, Royals. Who's that with you? Dame Victory?
The Royals have been in and out of Kauffman Stadium for the past month but never with Dame Victory on their arm. She was a missing person as the Kansas Citians lost 11 consecutive home games, a franchise record. The skid finally ended on Wednesday night with a 4-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins.
"It's good to get back," manager Ned Yost said. "It's been awhile since we won a game here and this was a great game to win. We had to grind it out."
Indeed. Yet the run-starved Royals had a comparative bonanza in the first inning -- three runs. Heck, they'd only scored one run in their previous two games.
Eric Hosmer, the new No. 2 hitter, made it to second base on shortstop Pedro Florimon's error, a boot compounded by a poor throw. Salvador Perez, the new No. 3 hitter, followed with a sharp single to left that scored Hosmer.
Perez, batting third for the first time in his career, finished the game with two singles, a walk and two runs.
"I was just trying to do my best. I don't worry about where I'm hitting -- first, second, third, fourth. I just try to do my best and hit the ball hard," Perez said.
Twins starter P.J. Walters followed with a walk to Billy Butler and, after the second out, he also walked Lorenzo Cain to load the bases. David Lough lined a double to left-center field for two more runs and a 3-1 lead.
"That gave us what we needed -- a little bit of breathing room for the starting pitcher," Yost said.
That starting pitcher was Jeremy Guthrie, who survived a ragged first inning in which he gave up three walks and a single with just one run scoring. The Twins had the bases loaded when first baseman Hosmer reached into the stands, out-hustling a fan with a glove to catch Brian Dozier's popup for the third out. Hosmer raised his glove in the air dramatically with no one in the crowd of 12,407, or even himself, quite sure he had the ball.
"I caught it, hit the guy's glove and hit the railing so I wasn't sure if I had it or not," Hosmer said. "So it was surprising to me that I had it."
After that 39-pitch first inning, Guthrie grinded through five more innings with no more walks and no more runs.
"The bright light went on and I said if I walk three guys in an inning I probably won't go very long," he said.
Another great fielding play by second baseman Chris Getz came with one out and two on in the third. He dove for Ryan Doumit's shot and got a forceout at second to sabotage the threat.
"Defensively, it's always one or two big plays that help a team win and that was the one tonight," Guthrie said.
The Royals added a run in the seventh after two were out. Reliever Josh Roenicke walked Perez, who alertly took second base on a wild pitch despite his notorious lack of speed.
"I saw the ball in the dirt and thought, 'I've got to go.' I always try to pay attention in case something happens," Perez said. "Then Billy got a base hit and I scored."
That was Butler's third hit of a 3-for-3 night with a walk.
"It's been a tough stretch at home, but we haven't just been playing bad here either. We've been playing bad in general everywhere we've been," Butler said. "Hopefully this gets us going."
The bullpen had to survive some tense moments, though, before this home victory was secure.
After two outs in the seventh, the Twins loaded the bases against Tim Collins on two walks sandwiched around Doumit's double. Right-hander Aaron Crow was summoned to face Dozier but Chris Herrmann, a left-handed batter, was sent in as a pinch-hitter. Crow won the battle, getting Herrmann on a groundout to short.
"I threw him two fastballs, got behind in the count 2-0, and just tried to get him to swing the bat and make something happen so I threw him a sinker and he hit it straight at Esky [Alcides Escobar], so it worked out," Crow said.
Kelvin Herrera, back from brief exile with Triple-A Omaha, pitched a perfect eighth inning.
Closer Greg Holland survived a shaky ninth that began with Joe Mauer's single and Josh Willingham's walk. Holland recovered to carve out three straight strikeouts for his 10th save.
"I started throwing strike one, which helped," Holland said. "The only real way for somebody to come back and beat you, up three runs, is to walk a few guys. But I fell behind and gave up the single and then the walk. After that I was able to command the strike zone a little better."
And the Royals had the unusual pleasure of shaking hands at Kauffman Stadium for the first time in a month. They hadn't won at home since May 5 when they beat the White Sox, 6-5, in 10 innings.
"To be honest, yesterday somebody mentioned that we had lost 11 at home and I had no idea," Getz said. "Because you're just playing, whether it's on the road or wherever. Wins or losses, it doesn't matter where they're at. But it's good to get that over with."
Starved for runs, four seemed like a banquet for the Royals and it provided a burst of renewed faith.
"We're going to hit, I don't think there's any question, and we've pitched all year," Holland said. "We're going to rattle off a bunch of wins and it's going to be exciting."