After missing nearly a month of action, Hunter Dozier’s recovery at the plate got off to a slow start. He went 0-4 in his first game back and 1-7 overall in his first two games back.
Any rust that Dozier might have had from his stay on the IL and the birth of his second child was all but gone this afternoon. His two extra-base hits, including a three-run home run in the third inning, helped lead the Royals to a 5-1 win over the Twins Sunday afternoon.
Playing as the Kansas City Monarchs for the day, the Royals lagged through the first two innings before exploding in the 3rd. After Martin Maldonado popped out to begin the inning, Kansas City rattled off five consecutive hits. Billy Hamilton started things off with a single, before moving to third on Whit Merrifield’s single.
The Monarchs uniforms made the Royals believe they were actually playing baseball in the 1940s because they would score their first run on a perfectly executed safety squeeze from Nicky Lopez. The Twins didn’t have a play, leaving runners on first and second for Alex Gordon, who hooked a ball into the right field corner, bringing in one more run, and putting the Royals up 2-0.
All this action was happening as Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, was trying to tell a few stories in the booth. He was interrupted again when Dozier put the exclamation mark on a huge inning, hammering a hanging breaking ball from Michael Pineda into the left-field bullpen.
With that, Homer Bailey was given a 5-0 lead and he took advantage of it. Coming off two of his strongest starts of the season, Bailey came into the game having not given up a run over his last 13.2 innings. He extended that streak to 16.2 innings before Eddie Rosario hit his 20th homer of the season to lead off the 4th and make it a 5-1 game.
Bailey would make it into the 6th inning, giving up just one run over 5.1 innings. He struck out five Twins in the process. Over his last 17 innings, Bailey has given up just one run.
On the other side, Pineda was pretty effective outside of that rough third inning. Five of his eight hits surrendered came in the 3rd and all five of his runs given up came in that third inning. When it was all said and done, Pineda would leave after five innings of work with five earned runs charged to his name.
A four-run lead for the Royals current bullpen, however, wasn’t a cake walk. Scott Barlow took care of business in the 6th, but Brad Boxberger got himself into trouble in the 7th. Boxberger hadn’t pitched in a week and in his last outing, he managed to give up two runs without recording an out.
This time around, Boxberger couldn’t stop hitting Twins. A Jorge Polanco single sandwiched by Jason Castro and Nelson Cruz each being hit by a pitch loaded the bases for Minnesota. At that point, Ned Yost had seen enough and brought in Kevin McCarthy to finish the job. McCarthy was able to get Rosario to ground into a force out to get the Royals out of trouble.
The Royals offense, meanwhile, continued to stall. After Hunter Dozier doubled with two outs in the 5th, no Royals managed to find their way into scoring position. In fact, outside the 3rd inning, Billy Hamilton was the only other Kansas City player to reach second base when he stole both second and third in the 4th.
That changed in the 7th, when Gordon doubled in Merrifield to put the Royals up 6-1. The double was Gordon’s 4th of the series and his 20th on the season. He is on pace to hit over 40 doubles for the third time in his career and the first time since 2012. For context, Gordon had 24 doubles in 141 games last season and 20 in 148 games back in 2017.
McCarthy shut down the Twins in the 9th to secure the win for the Royals and split the four-game series.
Up Next: Kansas City Royals at Cleveland Indians; Monday, June 24, 6:10 PM CDT, Progressive Field. RHP Brad Keller (3-9, 4.45 ERA) v. Adam Plutko (3-1, 4.55 ERA)