Remember early May, when the Royals were shut out in consecutive games? Lorenzo Cain was terrible. Salvador Perez couldn't hit anything. Right field was a mess. The Royals went from 12-6 to under .500 in two weeks.
It's amazing how far the 2015 World Series champions have come since.
For the second straight night, the Royals pounded the Twins with a consistent barrage of productive offensive innings. The Royals scored in three of the first four innings in Tuesday night's 7-4 victory over Minnesota, and this is after scoring in each of the first four frames in yesterday's 10-4 win.
What made tonight's victory feel better was the quality of the opposing starter. Last night, Kansas City roughed up Ricky Nolasco, who entered the game with an ERA of nearly 5.00. On Tuesday, Minnesota sent staff ace and former Royal Ervin Santana to the hill. Santana hadn't allowed more than three runs in any of his last 14 starts. Tonight, he didn't make it out of the fourth inning.
In the second inning, Kendrys Morales walked and Salvador Perez homered to dead center, his seventh of the year. Perez, who went 5-for-5 yesterday and finished a home run short of the cycle, grabbed the hit he was missing in his first at bat of Tuesday's game.
The Twins cut the deficit in half after a two-out RBI single by Eduardo Escobar, but in the third, the Royals immediately responded when Whit Merrifield doubled and Lorenzo Cain singled him to third base. Though Eric Hosmer hit into a double play in the next at-bat, Merrifield scored to re-give Kansas City a two-run lead.
Things fell apart for Santana in the fourth. Paulo Orlando continued his tear by doubling with one out. Cheslor Cuthbert lined a single to put runners on the corners. Then, Santana uncorked a wild pitch, which allowed Orlando to score. Jarrod Dyson walked. Alcides Escobar lined an RBI single to right. Later in the inning, Cain drove in the Royals' sixth run with a single to center field.
Santana's final line: 3.2 innings, six runs, nine hits, two walks, and four strikeouts. The six earned runs are the most he's allowed since August 8, 2015.
After being given a 6-1 lead, Edinson Volquez wasn't particularly sharp, but he got the job done when it mattered most. The Twins picked up two runs in the bottom of the fourth. They snagged another in the fifth, and suddenly, Minnesota had two on with none out in a 6-4 game. That's when Volquez battled back, retiring the next three hitters to strand the threat.
Volquez allowed four runs (though just two were earned) in 6.2 innings of work. He walked three, struck out six, and threw 103 pitches. He was pulled after issuing a two-out walk in the seventh inning, but Luke Hochevar struck out Miguel Sano to end the frame. Of the 20 runners that Hochevar has inherited this year, just one of them has scored. He's thriving in his "fireman" role.
Joakim Soria and Wade Davis worked the eighth and ninth innings to close the game out for the Royals. Soria breezed through the Twins 1-2-3 in his inning, but for Davis, the ninth inning was a bit bumpier. He loaded the bases with none out before striking out Eduardo Nunez and Joe Mauer. He then got Miguel Sano to flyout to end the game, miraculously navigating through the inning without allowing a run.
After banging out a season-best 10 runs and 17 hits yesterday, the Royals encored with seven runs on 13 hits. Kansas City's 17 runs and 30 hits are a season-high for a two-day span. Whit Merrifield, who wasn't on the 40-man roster this time last week, has three doubles in the last two days. The whole team is red-hot offensively.
Cain, particularly, continues to shred opposing pitchers in the month of May. After 22 games in April, Cain was hitting .220/.297 with just two extra-base hits, and just eight RBI. A killer May has upped his numbers all the way up to .296/.348. Cain has banged out eight extra-base hits in May to go along with 15 RBI. Suddenly, he's on pace for 22 homers and 90 runs batted in.
Volquez (5-4) earned the win. Santana (1-3) took the loss. Davis picked up his 12th save in 13 chances this season. He still hasn't allowed a run against the Twins since June 2014.
Kansas City is 24-21. The Royals are three games over .500 for the first time since April 27.
Also, the Royals have won eight straight games against the Twins, and they've won eight straight games at Target Field. Never before had Kansas City won eight straight games in Minneapolis.
The Royals have now won four straight series after losing five straight. Tomorrow, they go for their first sweep since the first weekend of the season, when they took three out of three from....the Minnesota Twins. Dillon Gee will take on Tyler Duffey (1-3, 3.30 ERA).