Twins use 7th inning to beat Royals
MINNEAPOLIS — Kurt Suzuki’s seventh-inning slide backed up right-hander Phil Hughes’ outstanding performance on the mound as the Minnesota Twins defeated the Kansas City Royals 4-1 on Saturday night at Target Field.
Down by a run and with only one hit on the board until that point, Suzuki led off the seventh with a single to left field. Chris Parmelee’s bunt single beat the shift and Jordan Schafer’s sac bunt moved both runners into scoring position for shortstop Danny Santana, who grounded sharply to Royals first baseman Billy Butler.
With a contact play on, Suzuki broke for home, getting there well after Butler’s throw to catcher Salvador Perez. Perez lunged to put his mitt in front of the plate, but Suzuki alertly lifted his hand over the glove before slamming it on home plate ahead of the tag.
“I had a front-row ticket to that; that was pretty good,” said Twins second baseman Brian Dozier, who was standing in the on-deck circle. “I told him that was the slide of the year. That was pretty good, a game-changer for us.”
But the slide and run only tied the score for Minnesota. It wasn’t until Dozier walked to the plate and slapped a soft double into left field, scoring another run, that the Twins had the lead. A sac fly by designated hitter Kennys Vargas made it a three-run inning for Minnesota.
The rally made a winner of Hughes, who allowed seven hits (six singles and a double) and had no walks while striking out six in 7 1/3 innings, improving to 13-8 this season.
“Great night. You look up after the third inning and he was only at like 20 pitches,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He was cruising along.”
After ending July with three straight losses, Hughes has won three in a row in August.
“I feel pretty good right now. I’ve gotten back into a pretty good stretch,” Hughes said. “Credit the offense, coming through just in time, against a guy who’s got some of the best stuff in the league.”
That ‘guy’ was Royals righty Yordano Ventura, who repeatedly touched 98 and 99 mph on the radar gun and allowed only one hit through six innings. He walked six and had a balk but was able to wiggle out of trouble every time until the three-run seventh.
“He had only given up one hit to that point, he was still throwing the ball good, ended up giving up a ground-ball base hit and then a bunt by a guy that never bunts that was a heads-up play, a two-strike bunt which was a pretty nice bunt,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.
“We had a chance to get out of it there. We gambled and played the infield in, got the ground ball, but Billy hesitated just enough where we couldn’t make the play.”
Suzuki smashed his third homer of the season to make it 4-1 in the eighth inning.
Right-hander Casey Fien relieved Hughes in the top of the eighth and cleaned up a two-on, one-out jam with a flyout and a strikeout. Closer Glen Perkins worked around a leadoff single in the ninth, retiring the next three hitters in order for his 31st save.
Kansas City’s lone run came in the fourth inning when right fielder Nori Aoki doubled and stole third. Suzuki’s throw sailed high and wide for only his fourth error of the season, and Aoki jogged home to give the Royals a 1-0 lead.
“You got to put up more runs than one,” Butler said. “That’s not the way it is every night, but that’s the way it is tonight.”