Royals ride five-run frame to fifth straight win
Gordon's three-hit day, stellar bullpen sets up sweep bid vs. Twins
KANSAS CITY -- Who would've have thought, when the Royals limped out of Minnesota last weekend, that this could happen?
But there it is, five straight victories for Kansas City after the Twins were dealt a 5-4 loss on Saturday as 24,291 fans basked on a gorgeous 75-degree afternoon at Kauffman Stadium.
Now the Royals, by completing a three-game sweep on Sunday, would repay the wipeout administered by the Twins just a week before.
"We haven't lost since then," said the Royals' Billy Butler. "It's kind of like last year. At any moment, we can win some games in a row and I think we're showing that early. I've said this all along -- if we avoid what we did in May last year (8-20), we're a playoff team."
Butler had his first extra-base hit and first multi-hit game this season, Alex Gordon notched his first three-hit game, Bruce Chen got his first victory and Greg Holland his sixth save.
It's very early but, inside a week, the Royals have lifted themselves from last place in the American League Central to a virtual tie with Detroit for first place. Their five-victory streak is their longest since last Aug. 25-29, when they won one each from Washington and Tampa Bay, then swept three at Minnesota.
"I think we're learning to keep those struggles to a minimum," Holland said, "and that's part of winning baseball, learning how to get out of the skids quicker so you don't lose three, four or five games straight. We've kind of pieced it together and we know what we're doing."
The Royals looked like it in the fourth inning when they scored all five of their runs, with a little help from the Twins.
"We misplayed a ball in right, didn't see one down the third-base line and threw one away on a steal. That's the ballgame," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "It's a game we felt we should have won if we make the plays we're supposed to make."
The Royals' big inning against right-hander Kevin Correia began with Gordon's single and Butler's double that sailed over right fielder Chris Colabello.
"The ball was hit right at him," Gardenhire said. "If you're not an everyday outfielder -- we know he's a [converted] first baseman -- that ball was hard to read. I think he thought he had it when it was first hit and then it just took off on him. Not an easy play for a guy who's not out there every day."
Colabello thought he was going to catch it.
"I took a dropstep in the wrong direction. I got twisted around and didn't think he had hit it that good," Colabello said. "Not too many people feel worse than I do about it."
That was followed by Mike Moustakas' sacrifice fly and Justin Maxwell's run-scoring single. Alcides Escobar was hit by a pitch and Nori Aoki slapped an RBI single past third base that Trevor Plouffe didn't see in the bright sunlight. Omar Infante dumped an RBI single into left and then he and Aoki executed a double steal.
Catcher Josmil Pinto air-mailed a throw past third base and into left field, and the error allowed Aoki to score the fifth run of the inning. That, surprisingly enough, turned out to be the deciding run.
Chen, the Royals' starter, gave up a home run to Kurt Suzuki in the top of the fourth to put the Twins ahead, 2-0. After the Royals' big inning, the Twins nicked Chen for two more runs in the fifth.
"You get these gut feelings," Royals manager Ned Yost said, "and in the fifth inning, I turned to [pitching coach] Dave Eiland and said, 'We're really going to have to focus on protecting a one-run lead the rest of the way out. If we get more, good.' But it turned out to be true."
That's when the Royals' relief corps went to work with four shutout, near-perfect innings.
"The bullpen was lights-out," Yost said.
Danny Duffy walked the first batter he faced, then retired six straight in the sixth and seventh. He hasn't allowed a run in the 6 1/3 innings he's pitched in three relief outings since being called up from Triple-A Omaha.
"Duffy throws the living fire out of the ball," Gardenhire said.
Wade Davis struck out the first two batters in the eighth and then got a dazzling play behind second base by Escobar, the far-ranging shortstop.
"As soon as [Pedro Florimon] hit it, I felt like it was routine for him," Davis said. "He's been so good. I played against him in the Minor Leagues and he's always been like that -- scrappy and makes every play out there."
The bullpen has put together 14 consecutive scoreless innings during the five-game streak.
"It's a lot of fun," said relief newbie Duffy. "I know there are always ups and downs with everything, and I try not to get too high on the highs. I feel great and I'm really enjoying what I'm doing.
"The name of the game is get the ball to Wade and Greg so it was nice to be given the opportunity to come in and bridge the gap to Wade, and the rest is history. Greg did a great job, too."