Enabled by poor outings from both starting pitchers, the World Champion Kansas City Royals and the cellar-dwelling Minnesota Twins seesawed back and forth with four lead changes in the first five innings.
Royals’ starter Ian Kennedy wasted little time in showing that he did not have his best stuff tonight. Facing the hottest hitter on the planet, Kennedy watched as his first pitch was ripped out of the park by second baseman Brian Dozier. The hung dong seemed pretty demoralizing and marked the 29th time that Dozier has gone yard since June 18 and the 36th time on the season.
After a signature Eric Hosmer grounder ended their top of the first with a whimper erasing a leadoff Jarrod Dyson single by way of the double play, the Royals offense got to work against struggling Twins’ rookie Jose Berrios in the top of the second. Salvador Perez smoked a one-out double, and Alex Gordon drove him in with a ground-ball single off the glove of Joe Mauer. Cheslor Cuthbert went down swinging for the second out of the inning, but Alcides Escobar extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a double that drove in Gordon - who was running on contact - from first.
The Royals threatened to add another run to their total in the top of the third when Paulo Orlando hit a one-out single, and Hosmer ripped a 350-foot single off the stone facing high up the wall in right. Mike Jirschele did his best Dave Owen impression only to immediately see the error in his ways, watching in horror as Orlando was out by a mile, not even bothering to slide as he trotted into the waiting tag of Juan Centeno. Hosmer advanced to second on the throw but was stranded there.
Kennedy kept the 2-1 lead for one inning, but in the third - because the nature of batting orders are such that pitchers have to face the same hitter every nine batters even though a pitcher might not want to face him again - Brian Dozier came back to the plate with a runner on first. With the speedy rookie Byron Buxton on first care of his swinging bunt single, Kennedy had his attention drawn two ways. Dozier fouled off five pitches, while Buxton drew pick-off attempts from Kennedy another five times, making for a plate appearance totaling ten pitches and 15 times coming set for Kennedy. On the tenth pitch of the at-bat, Kennedy left one in the heart of the strike zone. Dozier DESTROYED it.
The Twins’ 3-2 lead grew to 4-2 when Eddie Rosario led the bottom of the fourth off with a double and then scored on a sacrifice bunt from Eduardo Escobar in the next at-bat. Yes, Eddie Rosario scored from second on a sacrifice bunt. The attentive reader looks at that sentence and wonders how is that possible? Well, a runner scores from second on a sacrifice bunt when no one covers home, which is what happened when Salvador Perez fielded the ball and threw it to first. Good times.
Fortunately for the Royals, Jose Berrios was still pitching. Whit Merrifield got things started with a single off the glove of Trevor Plouffe at third and into left field. Grounding into a force out, Jarrod Dyson took Merrifield’s place at first and - after Orlando struck out - stole second and advanced to third on a Centeno throwing error. Hosmer drew a five-pitch walk. With the go-ahead run at the plate, Berrios fell behind Kendrys Morales 2-0 before leaving a change over the middle of the plate. Morales deposited the ball way out in right, hitting it off the stairs in into to concourse.
The Morales dong put the Royals up 5-4. The Royals added two more runs in the seventh via a standard Royals two-run innings featuring a Dyson double, Orlando single, Hosmer sac fly, Morales walk, and Perez RBI single.
In the eighth, the Royals turned it into a full-on rout. Alcides Escobar led off with a single. Whit Merrifield did the unthinkable and drew a walk to put two aboard. Dyson beat out an errant throw on a bunt single to load the bases, and Orlando drove in Escobar with a sacrifice fly that also moved Merrifield to third. On the first pitch he saw from reliever Pat Dean, Eric Hosmer reached back and unleashed a violent swing. Wood connected with ball. Ball went far. Hosmer trotted around the basepaths as his 21st dong hanging of 2016 sent the Royals bullpen scattering away from the incoming shot in deep left center.
The Hos Dong extended the Royals’ lead to 11-4. Because Brian Dozier is apparently the best baseball player in the world, he crushed his third massive dong of the afternoon, sending a Brooks Pounders four-seamer screaming into the third deck in left.
That 11-5 score is where things would stay.
The three-run lead by the time the Royals got to the pen meant that Ned Yost was able to use Peter Moylan, Brian Flynn, Brooks Pounders, and Scott Alexander to close out the game. Moylan and Flynn pitched the Royals out of a jam that Kennedy left for them, but by the time Flynn came back out to throw in the sixth, the Royals had built a three-run lead. It never got closer than that.
The win runs the Royals’ record to 71-66. Despite his poor start, Kennedy got the win, going 5.1 innings, striking out six while walking two and allowing four earned runs, three coming off Dozier dongs.
But really it was the Royals offense who won this game. Two-thirds of the Royals starters collected extra-base hits. Every starter got at least one hit. The only Royal batter not to reach safely was Billy Burns, who got just one at-bat in the ninth. Morales hit his 23rd homer of the season, and Hosmer notched his career-best 21st. The Royals amassed 21 baserunners against the Twins’ dismal pitching, rendering the Dozier Dong Show moot.