With such a bloody history between these franchises and cities, tensions were running high at Kauffman Stadium as the Kansas City Royals played host to their intradivisional archenemy, the Minnesota Twins.
No man was more attuned to this tension than Kyle Gibson, against whom the Royals executed a blitzkrieg that necessitated a visit from Twins pitching coach Neil Allen just nine pitches into the game.
Those nine pitches played out as follows:
- Ben Zobrist sends a ground-ball single to left on a 91-MPH fastball.
- Alex Gordon sends a ground-ball single to right through the teeth of the shift on an 89-MPH fastball. Zobrist goes first-to-third on the play.
- 92-MPH ball low and inside to Lorenzo Cain.
- 92-MPH ball low and inside to Lorenzo Cain.
- After a pick-off attempt at first, 91-MPH ball low and inside to Lorenzo Cain.
- 91-MPH ball low and inside to Lorenzo Cain. Cain walks. Gordon moves up to second base.
- Eric Hosmer fouls off a 92-MPH fastball in the heart of the plate.
- Eric Hosmer pounces on an 84-MPH change middle-in and drills it to the wall in right-center on a bounce. Zobrist scores. Gordon scores. Cain scores. Hosmer settles in at second with a three-run double.
- Kendrys Morales strokes a 79-MPH curveball down but in the middle of the zone over a leaping Joe Mauer at first and into right. Eric Hosmer scores.
At this point the Royals led 4 - 0, and Kyle Gibson had yet to record an out. After the visit from Allen, Gibson walked Moustakas on five pitches, putting him 14 pitches into the game and still searching for his first out.
Thankfully for Gibson, Salvador Perez chased three separate pitches out of the zone during an eight-pitch at-bat that never got past a 2-2 count before flying out to center fielder Byron Buxton. Morales advanced to third on the fly ball, but Alex Rios listlessly grounded to short, ambling down the line while watching as a double play allowed Gibson to escape the inning with just four runs allowed despite not recording an out until the seventh batter of the inning.
Given the damage done early against Gibson, the Royals were emboldened and doubled down on their aggressive offensive approach. This allowed Mizzou alum/turncoat Cy Gibson to run through the Royals with ease, a luxury to which he had grown accustomed in his previous seven starts against the hated foe.
More specifically, Cy Gibson allowed just two more baserunners as he finished the eighth inning in stride at just the 101-pitch mark. Only Alex Gordon seemed to have Gibson's number, collecting three hits on the evening. Gibson struck out four, walked two (both in the first), and allowed six hits while serving up just those four earned runs occurring before an out had been recorded.
For his part, Royals' starter Edinson Volquez worked around jams while struggling at times with command and his footing on the mound. He struck out three Twins, hit Brian Dozier in the shoulder with a fastball that missed its mark badly, and allowed six hits, one for extra bases.
Volquez got into the most trouble in the third.
Highly touted prospect Byron Buxton hit an infield single to Moustakas at third. The speedster then gave the Royals a taste of what it is like to face the Royals, stealing second base off of Volquez and Perez with ease before getting driven in by Brian Dozier on a two-out single through the left side of the infield.
Alex Gordon made an uncharacteristic gaffe when he went home with the throw without a shot in hell at getting Buxton at the plate. Dozier advanced to second on the ill-advised throw home. Mauer followed with a double to right, and the Twins had halved the Royals' lead, bringing the score to 4 - 2.
This is where the score stayed. Volquez finished seven innings of work with his pitch count at 91 with Buxton and the top of the order due up in the next inning. Wade Davis and Greg Holland worked perfect frames in the eighth and ninth innings.
The long national nightmare was finally over. With children born before the calendar turned to September 4 never having seen what it was like for the Royals to win a baseball game, concerns that the Royals might not win another game in their lifetimes were starting to seem more and more possible.
With decades of violence and bloodshed between the fanbases of the two teams in the back of everybody's mind, the prospect of the Royals' losing streak continuing at the hands of the thieving Twins bordered on devastating. Another loss could well have broken the spirits of the entirety of the Royal fandom, leading to depression, anger, and possibly worse.
The win broke the Royals' four-game skid, matching the longest losing streak of the season for the first-place Kansas City squad. All of those losses came in front of a tear-soaked, packed house that will soon (either today or tomorrow) break a franchise single-season attendance record.
At 83-55, the Royals are now 28 games over .500 for the first time since they began the 2009 season 18-11.
In the quest to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, the Blue Jays held pace with a tenth-inning win over the Red Sox, but the Yankees lost to the Orioles. The Jays trail by four games, while the Yankees are 5.5 back.