With two pitch-to-contact pitchers stepping to the pitching rubber tonight, the Royals' and Twins' offenses looked set to engage in a back-and-forth rumble where the last team to plate a runner would be the likely victor.
Neither lefty starter pitched particularly well this evening. Jason Vargas and Tommy Milone traded soft blows, allowing baserunners with alarming ease and runs almost as easily.
The Royals drew first blood as Alex Gordon sent a Milone cutter away over the fence in the bottom of the second. It was the first time Gordon--who underwent wrist surgery in the offseason, something that often saps a hitter's power for months--hanged dong this season, which was a welcome sight for those wanting to make sure that everything was on the up and up with dreamy left fielder.
In the third, the Royals loaded the bases against the soft-tossing southpaw, but after Milone walked Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer consecutively, Kendrys Morales went after the first pitch and flied out to Torii Hunter in right to allow Milone to escape the frame unscathed.
To kick off the fourth inning, Jason Vargas allowed ground-ball singles to the first three hitters he faced, the third of which netted the Twins the game-tying run and Joe Mauer his fifth RBI of the young season.
It took an inning, but the Royals answered the Twins' run with two of their own behind a two-run dong hanging from Mike Moustakas, who lulled Milone to sleep with an opposite field single in the first only to trick him into leaving a meatball on the inner third of the plate which he yanked into the bullpen in right.
Of course in the next half inning, the Twins decided to harness the power of the 2014 Royals doubling twice to start off the frame (but not plating a run with the second one) and then singled Jason Vargas and Jason Frasor to death, answering the Royals' two fifth-inning runs with four of their own in the sixth.
After getting two flyouts from Alex Gordon and Salvador Pérez, Milone walked Paulo Orlando and was promptly pulled by Paul Molitor, who handed things off to Blaine Boyer. Boyer fed his first pitch to Christian Colón, who rifled the ball right back up the middle, sending Orlando off to the races, plating the fleet-footed Brazilian homeward while ending up at second on the throw home. Colón stole third himself, but with two outs Alcides Escobar was unable to send him home, leaving the Royals with a one-run deficit heading into the seventh inning.
Chris Young took care of the Twins in the top of the seventh in quick order.
In the home half of the frame, Boyer gave way to lefty reliever Aaron Thompson, who induced Moustakas and Cain groundouts before walking Eric Hosmer--the third time Hosmer reached base via the free pass. With switch-hitting Kendrys Morales coming to the plate, Aaron Thompson clearly wanted to avoid The Cubanoid, and Paul Molitor lifted him from the game in favor of right-hander Casey Fien. While the fear in Thompson's eyes was visible to all who saw him, Fien looked to Morales with a steely glint in his eye, staying low on the first three pitches of the at-bat before leaving one up on the outer edge of the plate that The Cubanoid poked the other way for a single, moving Hosmer into scoring position with Gordon coming to the plate. Gordon swung at the second pitch in on his hands and lined out to Joe Mauer, ending the Royals' scoring threat and instantaneously letting the air out of Kauffman Stadium.
Young did his thing again in the eighth, inducing weak fly-ball contact while mixing in a strikeout for good measure.
Salvador Pérez led off the bottom of the eighth with a single, and with the Royals down a run and every baserunner being of the utmost importance, Ned Yost inserted Jarrod Dyson into the game as a pinch-runner for the s-l-o-w Royals' catcher. Attempting to keep Dyson tethered to the bag at first, Fien fired off six pick-off attempts while facing Paulo Orlando in a seven-pitch at-bat. On that seventh pitch, Paulo Orlando ripped a single up the middle, moving Dyson--who was running on contact--to third. Despite a pick-off attempt, Paulo Orlando stole second on a 1-0 count, moving the go-ahead run into scoring position with no outs and Christian Colón at the dish. Colón poked a grounder weakly to second baseman Brian Dozier, plating Dyson and moving Orlando up a station with two outs remaining. Fien then induced an Escobar pop-up no more than twenty feet from home plate for the second out, and Molitor went to the pen again, this time fingering his closer, Glen Perkins, with Mike Moustakas set to step into the batter's box.
As Mike Moustakas has done in 2015, Moustakas sent a ball on the outer corner into shallow left field, using the opposite field as if it were innate but had lain dormant within him until this season. With a modest stroke of the bat, Moustakas put the Royals up a run with Wade Davis priming the pump in the bullpen.
The rest--as anyone who has seen Wade Davis pitch since the beginning of 2014 could surmise without needing to watch a second of the top of the ninth--was as if it was being replayed from a future with complete knowledge as to how events transpired. Davis sent the Twins down with the robotic ease that was preordained when he was shifted back to the pen in late 2013. Flyball to center. Grounder to second. Strikeout swinging over that wicked cutter.
As was the case often last fall and has also been in this young season, it was Mike Moustakas providing the fuel for the offense. The bullpen did as it does and earned both the 'W' (Young) and 'S' (Davis).
The Royals had the last word in the scoring department, and assured the series win this time with one game yet to go before traveling to the South Side to face the Pale Hoes. With the Yankees downing the Tigers, the Royals have drawn even with the Tigers and are co-owners of the best record in baseball, evoking memories of such storied starts as 18 - 11 and 18 - 11.