Apologies for not having a preview of this one up before the game.
The Minnesota Twins are assured of a series victory. . .in a series of at least three games in length. . .for the first time during the 2011 season after their victory over the Kansas City Royals on Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium.
The victory is Minnesota's third straight over the Royals, which means that they have taken this series from the Royals regardless of the outcome of Sunday's series finale. In 11 series of at least three games in length prior to this one, the Twins had managed one four-game split and had come out on the short end of every other series.
The Twins got the first run of the night in the top of the third, courtesy of an Alexi Casilla single that brought home Matt Tolbert. The lead did not last long, however, as the Royals got two runs of their own in the bottom of the third. The Royals managed to load the bases with one out in that half of the inning, and Eric Hosmer's single to center plated Alcides Escobar to tie the game at one and leave the bases loaded. Jeff Francoeur then lifted a sacrifice fly to center field to right field to bring Alex Gordon in to score and give the Royals a 2-1 lead after three innings.
The score remained that way until the top of the sixth inning. Ben Revere led off the inning with a single, and Casilla's bunt single put runners on first and second for Minnesota. Michael Cuddyer's groundout moved both of them up 90 feet, and Danny Valencia's groundout brought Revere home to tie the score at two. Delmon Young then reached on an infield single, allowing Casilla to score and give the Twins a 3-2 lead.
Minnesota added more runs in the top of the seventh, an outburst that started with Rene Rivera. . .yes, catcher Rene Rivera. . .reaching first on a bunt single. Matt Tolbert then followed up with a double to put runners on second and third. Ben Revere then singled to center to score Rivera, and Tolbert took third on the play, making the score 4-2. Casilla then followed that up with another single, scoring Tolbert and allowing Revere to take third, making it 5-2, Twins. Michael Cuddyer then singled as well to score Revere and give the Twins a 6-2 lead. That was all the Twins would get, however, as Royals reliever Louis Coleman was able to set the Twins down after that.
Cuddyer put the coup de grace on the evening with a solo home run to left-center in the top of the ninth inning off of Aaron Crow to make the score 7-2 in favor of the Twins. The blast was Cuddyer's seventh of the year, and the only one by either team on Saturday night.
Of course, since this is the 2011 Minnesota Twins, it can't be all good news. Starting pitcher Nick Blackburn, who got the win in this one after pitching five innings of work and allowing two runs and seven hits, left after experiencing tightness in his back. No word yet on his status, but hopefully it isn't anything major. The Twins' bullpen combined to pitch four incredibly solid innings of relief, allowing only one hit over that time span, although they did walk four people.
The victory for Blackburn raises his record to 5-4 on the season. Royals' starter Luke Hochevar took the loss, dropping him to 3-6 on the season.
The Twins will go for an unexpected. . .and, from this team, unprecedented, four-game sweep of the Royals on Sunday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium, with first pitch scheduled for 1:10 PM Central time tomorrow. The Twins will hand the ball to left-hander Brian Duensing (2-5, 5.37 ERA), and the Royals will counter with lefty Jeff Francis (2-5, 4.46 ERA).