KANSAS CITY -- The Twins were 4-8 when things began to turn in the right direction. What started on April 21 for the Twins at Kauffman Stadium has continued through May 21 at the same ballpark.
Over that one-month span, Minnesota has overcome a sluggish, offensively challenged start to go on a 20-8 stretch with the pitching, hitting and defense working in impressive harmony. It was more of the same on Saturday as the Twins ran away late to break open a tight game and record a 9-2 victory over the Royals.
“We’re just clicking,” Twins catcher Ryan Jeffers said. “We’re pitching very well, and now we are putting together the hits when we need them. We’ve had some guys come back [from injury] and we’re a scary team.”
On April 21, the Twins came to work having scored three runs or fewer over nine of their opening 12 games. With Joe Ryan starting, Minnesota was able to squeeze out a 1-0 victory in the series finale. Fast forward one month, and it was Ryan again on the mound. He held Kansas City to one run over 5 2/3 innings before giving way to Caleb Thielbar, who came on to retire Kyle Isbel in a lefty-on-lefty matchup with the bases loaded and Minnesota up, 4-1.
“Caleb was awesome, coming in and picking me up there,” Ryan said. “It was a good game overall. The boys brought some good run support, and I think that always takes pressure off.”
The Twins used a third-inning sacrifice bunt to help manufacture two runs off Kansas City starter Brad Keller. The first run scored on Byron Buxton’s sacrifice fly, and it was symbolic of how Minnesota has been doing the little things over the past month to carve out its 20-8 stretch.
“With this ballpark and the way it’s playing, you’re not going to hit too many balls over the fence,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “It’s a monstrous ballpark to start with. You are going to need to string together hits and move baserunners. Our entire lineup is contributing right now with those types of at-bats.”
The Twins scored five runs over the final two innings to pull away and take some stress off the bullpen. Over the last three games of a 4-1 road trip thus far, Minnesota has scored 14, six and nine runs.
“Their starter did a good job,” Baldelli said. “He mixes his pitches very well. Our guys kind of battled through the beginning of the game, and we stayed on them.”
With the top six batters in the lineup each contributing at least one RBI, Minnesota put itself in position to shoot for a series sweep on Sunday.
The most nervous moment for the Twins came in the fourth when Ryan received a visit from Baldelli after the right-hander had an awkward sequence on the mound. But there was no injury. Ryan said he just happened to be bothered by the lights for an instant and he quickly told those who gathered at the mound that he was fine.
“I looked into the lights and it blinded my eyes for a second,” Ryan said.
Turns out, there was nothing to worry about. That’s pretty much how it has gone for the Twins over a fruitful last 30 days. Not much to worry about at all.