The first inning and a half of this game went about the way many Royals fans probably expected. Jason Vargas pitched a scoreless first, but Bartolo Colon pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the inning on only 9 pitches. In the top of the second Vargas started getting batted around a bit and allowed a run on a Byron Buxton triple to right center and a deep fly ball with an impressive catch by Alex Gordon immediately before he crashed face first into the fence for a sacrifice fly. Thanks in part to Gordon’s terrific catch, though, the Twins only got the one run.
Then the 2015 Royals made a brief appearance in the bottom of the inning.
Eric Hosmer led off with a single to left. Salvador Perez followed up with a groundball single through the middle of the infield. Mike Moustakas broke his bat lining out to center. Brandon Moss ripped a double down the right field line to drive in Hosmer and tie the game; it also placed runners at second and third, still with only one out. That’s when Alcides Escobar doinked one into the LoCain triangle for a 2-RBI single to give the Royals the lead.
Then the unthinkable happened, Alex Gordon roped an RBI double into left-center to score another run. Whit Merrifield followed with a mirror image hustle double into right center to score Alex. Colon got Lorenzo Cain to fly out off the end of his bat to Buxton, but that was the end of his day.
Nik Turley was summoned from the Twins ‘pen and he immediately got Melky Cabrera down 0-2 but ended up walking him, including a wild pitch to move Whit to third. Eric Hosmer got his second hit of the inning, this time an RBI single into left and the Royals had a nice 6-1 lead headed into the third.
Vargas settled down in the third and fourth innings but worked himself into a jam in the fifth, loading the bases with only one out. As Scott Alexander raced to get warm in the left field bullpen Vargas induced a groundball from Brian Dozier to escape the inning with a double play. That ended Vargas’ day; 5 innings pitched only 1 run allowed.
Speaking of double plays the Royals tied, then set, then reset a franchise record for the most double plays in a series. Those 3 gave them a total of 11 double plays grounded into, this series, and represent a big reason why the Royals were only able to split it. In fairness to the Boys in Blue it is easier to hit into a double play when your lead-off runner gets on - as the Royals accomplished in six straight innings after the 1-2-3 first inning.
The Royals tacked on some more runs off reliever John Curtiss in the bottom of the seventh inning. Melky singled to left, Hosmer doubled to left - his fourth hit of the day, Sal singled home Melky on a popup into right field that Dozier almost caught but was probably Eddie Rosario’s play, and Brandon Moss got a hold of a middle-middle fastball and sent it over the right field bullpen for a 3-run bomb and a 9-run lead.
The Royals’ backups put up another run in the eighth; Paulo Orlando hit a ground rule double and Cheslor Cuthbert shot a liner through the left side of the infield to bring him home.
Scott Alexander gave the Royals two scoreless innings with lots of groundballs and strikeouts, as usual. Ryan Buchter had a messy but scoreless eighth inning. Kevin McCarthy was not nearly so clean in the ninth but starting the inning with a 10-run lead meant not worrying about it too much even when he gave up the 2-run home run to Kennys Vargas.
Eric Hosmer is the first Royal to complete a season series batting over .400 in a season series against an opponent. He only made 2 outs all weekend while collecting 11 hits and 2 walks.
The game thread suggested that the Royals would need good pitching to win today, and they got it. Jason Vargas collected his fifteenth win and the bullpen more than did it’s job. It also included a note that the Royals had their backs against the wall, not for the first time this year, and needed another win in order to continue their streak of fighting to stay in it against all odds. The Royals got that win, today. Tomorrow they’ll resume the fight against the White Sox. Jason Hammel (8-10 4.73) will face Reynaldo Lopez (0-3 4.84).