It was a scene that you'd only believe in 2015. The Kansas City Royals starting catcher goes down with an injury, and his replacement eventually comes through with the game-winning hit. Oh, how we can hope that these Royals are turning back the clock just in time for one last playoff push.
Also: a whole lot more runs followed in a brilliantly fun ninth inning.
The Royals, now 13-2 against the Twins in 2016, came back and eventually blew Minnesota out. The final result was a 10-3 win to keep Kansas City alive in the American League Wild Card race.
Against old friend Ervin Santana, the Royals wasted little time getting on the board. Eric Hosmer drew a two-out walk before Kendrys Morales clobbered a two-run home run. The blast was struck in nearly the exact same spot as the mammoth bomb Morales hit in yesterday's 11-4 win. It was the 24th big fly of the year for the Royals designated hitter, which is the second-highest total of his career after his 34-homer breakout season in 2009 with the Angels.
Unfortunately for the Royals, the Twins took even less time getting runs on the board against Kansas City starter Dillon Gee. Six of the first eight Twins recorded base hits against Gee, including three solo home runs. Brian Dozier led off the game with yet another homer; it was his ELEVENTH home run of the season against Kansas City.
The last time one player hit 11 home runs in one season against a single team? Barry Bonds in 2002 against the Padres. Yikes.
The other two Minnesota home runs came off the bats of Trevor Plouffe in the first and Eddie Rosario in the second. But right after that, Gee settled down and, against all odds, collected a quality start. Gee would retire 15 of the next 17 batters he faced to allow just those three runs in 6.0 innings.
Considering that the Royals had their No. 5 pitcher oppose the Twins' opening day starter, the Royals had to feel pretty good about their situation by being down just one run after six innings.
Santana settled into a groove after early-inning struggles as well. The Royals put the leadoff man on base in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings. In the fifth, Alex Gordon was at third base with nobody out. In the sixth, Jarrod Dyson was on third with one out. The Royals failed to score in any of the innings, which didn't exactly sit well with the fans.
In the top of the seventh, Santana put yet another leadoff man on, but it came at a big cost for the Royals. Salvador Perez was clocked on the right wrist by a Santana fastball, and he immediately was lifted from the game. It was later diagnosed as a right wrist contusion with more test to come in the next couple of days. But considering how Perez is dinged up by countless pitches and bounced sliders every day and always manages to stay in the game, it wasn't settling to see him immediately lifted after being hit on Tuesday.
Terrance Gore was inserted as a pinch-runner. He stole second for the 13th stolen base of his career in 13 chances. Gordon walked, and despite only having thrown 99 pitches, Santana wasn't given the chance to escape another jam. Paul Molitor lifted him from the game and summoned Ryan Pressly to put out the fire. But after getting Cheslor Cuthbert to line out, Pressly allowed an RBI single off the bat of Alcides Escobar to tie the game. All Santana could do from the dugout was watch in disgust.
The bullpens kept the game scoreless until the top of the ninth. The Royals went right to work on Minnesota closer Brandon Kintzler. Whit Merrifield blooped in a leadoff single. Gordon roped a single into right field to move him to third. Cuthbert walked to load the bases. But Escobar grounded into a fielder's choice that saw Merrifield forced out at home, and up came Drew Butera, who was just filling in for the injured Perez. Down in the count, Butera lined a single through the right-side hole to give the Royals their first lead since the first inning.
Kansas City added all of the insurance it would need later in the inning. With two outs, Paulo Orlando lined a crisp single to the opposite field to plate two more runs. And then in the next at-bat, Eric Hosmer hit one back up the middle for his 88th RBI of the season. Suddenly, the Royals had blown the game open with a 7-3 lead.
Right when you thought that all of the damage was done, Big Ken Morales provided the dagger by tattooing yet another home run. This one was a three-run, opposite-field blast that was caught by Royals bullpen catcher Cody Clark. It was #25 on the year for Morales. He's just the second Royal since 2003 to hit at least 25 bombs in one season; the other was Billy Butler (29) in 2012.
In all, the Royals sent 11 men to the plate in the seven-run ninth inning. Morales collected five RBIs on the night to take his total to 72.
Joakim Soria and Kelvin Herrera worked scoreless frames in the seventh and eighth innings for the Royals. Herrera (2-4) earned the win. Brian Flynn got the last three outs of the night.
The Royals are 72-66. They are 59-64 if you take out all of the games they've played against Minnesota. But fortunately, those games count just as much as all of the others.
Also, Kansas City is now on pace for 145 home runs this year, which would be the most for the franchise in one season since 2004.
Gee's final line: 6.0 innings, eight hits, three runs, and two strikeouts. As for Santana, his line looks like this: 6.0+ innings, three hits, three runs, and six strikeouts.
Tomorrow: the Royals seek yet another sweep of the Twins when Danny Duffy opposes Kyle Gibson. First pitch is at 7:10.