This may be the single greatest reaction to a home run ever. (Picture via Twinkie Town)

Royals At Twins: Thome Blasts Minnesota Past Kansas City, 4-3

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Thome's Epic Blast Spurs Twins Victory Over Royals

Last season, Jim Thome hit a home run that traveled far enough to hit the eagle atop the flagpole in right field at Target Field. A lot of people, including yours truly, had never seen anything quite like it. However, if the numbers from the stadium are to be believed, the 41-year old managed to top himself on Sunday afternoon against the Kansas City Royals.

Thome blasted a three-run bomb in the bottom of the sixth off of Royals' starter Felipe Paulino (1-3, 3.60 ERA) that was reportedly measured at 490 feet. . .ten feet longer than last year's moon shot. . .and gave the Twins the lead for good in their 4-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals. The ball landed in the upper deck in right-center field, as opposed to the shot that hit the eagle last season that traveled more to straight away right.

The teams traded runs in the first inning, as Kansas City got things started with a one-out double to left by Melky Cabrera. Cabrera came in to score on a single by Alex Gordon to give the Royals a quick 1-0 lead. The Twins answered in the bottom half, however, as Alexi Casilla doubled with one out, and came home on a Joe Mauer single to tie the game.

The score remained tied until the bottom of the sixth, when Thome's home run happened. Ben Revere singled to start the inning, and was sacrificed to second by Casilla. After Mauer was intentionally walked, Michael Cuddyer struck out swinging for the inning's second out. Thome then came up and ran the count to 3-2 against Paulino. Paulino left a fast ball up, and Thome hit it half way to Duluth. It was the 596th home run of Thome's career, and his 500th as an American Leaguer. He hit 96 in three seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League from 2003 to 2005.

Brian Duensing (7-7, 4.14 ERA) pitched six solid innings for the Twins, but was left in a couple of batters too long, as he gave up a two-run homer to Jeff Francoeur in the top of the seventh inning to cut Minnesota's lead to 4-3. After Wilson Betemit reached on a Danny Valencia error on the next at-bat, Duensing was lifted for Alex Burnett. Burnett got the final two outs of the seventh, giving Duensing a final line of 6.1 innings pitched, and three runs allowed on seven hits.

There would be no further drama, however, as Glen Perkins pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning for Minnesota, and he was followed up by Joe Nathan, who got his fifth save of the season by setting the Royals down in order in the top of the ninth.

With the victory, the Twins have pulled themselves to within five games of the top of what is becoming a very crowded American League Central. After Sunday's results, the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers are tied for the top spot in the division, with the Chicago White Sox sitting four games back and the Twins at five games out.

Speaking of the Cleveland Indians, they will be coming to town starting on Monday for a four-game series at Target Field. Monday will give us a day/night doubleheader to make up for the rainout that happened back on April 22. The first game will get underway at 12:10 PM Central time, with the nightcap scheduled to get started at 7:10 PM Central time. We're not entirely sure of the pitching match-ups yet because Scott Baker, who was scheduled to start one of Monday's games, is being placed on the 15-day disabled list with an elbow problem. Once we have the pitching match-ups and all the associated roster moves, we will bring them to you.


Nathan Returns To Closer's Role In Twins' 4-3 Victory

In his first six seasons with the Minnesota Twins, spanning from 2004 to 2009, Joe Nathan notched 246 saves as the Minnesota closer, and picked up three more before winding up on the disabled list this season. On Saturday night at Target Field against the Kansas City Royals, he picked up one of the more important saves of his Twins career.

Having been reinserted into the closer's role after Matt Capps' meltdown on Friday night, Nathan came on in the ninth inning and, after a little bit of drama, retired the Royals to close things out and preserve a 4-3 victory for the Twins. With the Cleveland Indians and the Detroit Tigers both losing on Saturday, the Twins' deficit in the American League Central race dropped back down to six games.

Minnesota struck first in this one, getting on the board in the bottom of the first inning. Ben Revere started the game with an infield single, moving to second on an Alexi Casilla ground out and then stealing third. Joe Mauer then grounded out to second and plated Revere, making the score 1-0. Michael Cuddyer then singled to center, and Delmon Young followed that up with a double to deep center field to score Cuddyer and give the Twins a 2-0 lead.

The Twins added to their lead in the bottom of the fourth on a solo home run by Drew Butera. . .yes, that Drew Butera. That gave the Twins a 3-0 lead, and it looked like they might be cruising, as starting pitcher Carl Pavano had given up just two hits over the first four innings. However, things got a little rougher in the top of the fifth, as after two quick Kansas City outs, Brayan Pena singled to keep the inning alive, and Alex Escobar followed that up with a two-run home run to left to cut Minnesota's lead to 3-2.

Kansas City tied the game in the top of the sixth, as Melky Cabrera singled to start the inning. Cabrera then stole second base, and Pavano then walked Alex Gordon. Billy Butler grounded into a fielder's choice to third that forced Gordon at second, but still left runners at the corners with one out. Eric Hosmer, who was the hero for the Royals on Friday night with his home run off of Capps, then grounded out to third, scoring Cabrera with the tying run and making the score 3-3.

In the bottom of the eighth, with Royals' starter Jeff Francis still on the mound, Alexi Casilla and Joe Mauer collected consecutive singles with one out, with Casilla taking third on Mauer's base hit to put runners on the corners. The Royals then brought in reliever Aaron Crow to face Michael Cuddyer, and the All-Star greeted him with a single to center field to score Casilla and give Minnesota a 4-3 lead. The Twins had a chance for more, but in a situation similar to last night's ninth inning for the Twins, Delmon Young hit a ground ball to the mound, and Mauer got caught in a rundown between third base and home plate, and was retired for the second out. Danny Valencia then grounded out to the mound as well to end the inning.

In came Nathan to pitch the top of the ninth to a raucous ovation at Target Field, and though he allowed a one-out single to Hosmer, who subsequently stole second, he retired Mike Moustakas on a fly ball to right field to end the ball game. Nathan threw 14 pitches in the inning, nine of them for strikes. His save was the fourth of the year, and his first one since April 8 in Minnesota's 2-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics.

Pavano pitched seven strong innings, allowing three runs on six hits while getting a no-decision. Glen Perkins, who pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning with two strikeouts, got credit for the victory, which was his first of the season to even his record at 1-1. Francis took the loss for Kansas City, allowing four runs on seven hits in 7.1 innings of work and dropping his record to 3-11 on the year.

The final game of the series will take place on Sunday afternoon at Target Field, with first pitch scheduled for 1:10 PM Central time. Kansas City will send right-hander Felipe Paulino (1-6, 4.31 ERA) to the mound, while the Twins will turn to left-hander Brian Duensing (6-7, 4.13 ERA).


Capps Blows Another Save As Twins Fall To Royals, 2-1

If the Minnesota Twins are going to get back into the American League Central race, they could use a lot more performances like the one they got from Nick Blackburn on Friday night against the Kansas City Royals. They could also stand to cut down on the kind of performances they got from Matt Capps on Friday night against the Kansas City Royals.

Seven brilliantly pitched innings from Blackburn went to waste, as Capps blew his Major League-leading seventh save of the 2011 season, and the Minnesota Twins fell to the Royals by a score of 2-1 at Target Field.

The Twins got their lone run of the ball game in the bottom of the fourth inning. Ben Revere led off the inning with an infield single, and then stole second base as well. A groundout by Alexi Casilla moved Revere to third. After an intentional walk to Joe Mauer and a pop out by Michael Cuddyer, Revere came in to score on a wild pitch by Royals' starter Luke Hochevar to give the Twins a 1-0 lead.

The Twins didn't get any more runs, but with the way Blackburn was going, it didn't look like they were going to need any more. Blackburn mowed down the Royals for seven solid innings, holding Kansas City scoreless and allowing only four hits during his time on the mound. Joe Nathan came in to relieve Blackburn, and set the Royals down in order in the top of the eight.

Then Capps came in for the top of the ninth. He started the inning off with a four-pitch walk to Melky Cabrera, who subsequently stole second. Capps then retired Alex Gordon on a ground ball to third, and Billy Butler on a fly ball to right for two outs. Then Royals' first baseman Eric Hosmer jumped on an 0-1 offering from Capps, and launched it into the center field seats to give the Royals their first lead of the night at 2-1. As mentioned, it was the seventh blown save of the year for Capps, tying him with the Chicago Cubs' Carlos Marmol for the big league lead in that category.

The Twins had a chance in the bottom of the ninth against Royals' closer Joakim Soria. Jim Thome started the inning off with a walk, and was lifted for pinch-runner Matt Tolbert. Danny Valencia then flew out to center for the first out, but Delmon Young singled to center and moved Tolbert up to third. Luke Hughes then pinch-hit for Jason Repko, and tapped a weak ground ball to the pitcher. Soria fielded it and went to the plate to easily get Tolbert for the second out. Young advanced to second base, but Tsuyoshi Nishioka was unable to bring him around, as he grounded out to shortstop to end the game.

Tim Collins (4-4, 3.65 ERA) got the win for the Royals after pitching a scoreless eighth in relief of Hochevar, who allowed just one run on three hits in seven innings in the no-decision. The save for Soria was his sixteenth of the year. Capps took the loss for the Twins to drop his record to 2-5 on the year.

Minnesota will attempt to bounce back from this loss on Saturday afternoon at Target Field, with first pitch scheduled for 6:10 PM Central time. The Royals will send southpaw Jeff Francis (3-10, 4.60 ERA) to the mound, while the Twins will counter with right-hander Carl Pavano (6-6, 4.10 ERA).


Twins Defeat Royals, 8-4, Cutting AL Central Deficit To Six Games

The Minnesota Twins will need a big second half in order to make a charge in the American League Central standings. They got off to a pretty good start on Thursday night at Target Field, knocking off the Kansas City Royals by a final score of 8-4.

Things did not get off to a promising start for the Twins, as the Royals found themselves with the bases loaded and two out against Minnesota starter Francisco Liriano. Liriano then uncorked a wild pitch that went to the backstop, allowing Melky Cabrera to score from third. Mauer. . .a former quarterback, remember. . .then attempted to throw what looked like an option pitch to Liriano covering home plate, but the ball skipped past him, allowing Alex Gordon to score as well, giving the Royals two unearned runs and an early 2-0 lead.

Kansas City added another run in the fourth, when a one-out single by Brayan Pena brought Mike Moustakas in to score to make the score 3-0. Pena was thrown out at second attempting to stretch his single into a double, and Liriano then retired Alex Escobar to end the inning. The Royals would not score again until the top of the ninth inning.

The Twins' offense, on the other hand, finally found itself in the bottom of the fifth. After Alexi Casilla and Joe Mauer were quickly retired, Royals' starter Bruce Chen then walked Michael Cuddyer, and the Twins strung together a series of two-out hits. Danny Valencia smashed a double to deep right to score Cuddyer and get the Twins on the scoreboard at 3-1. Delmon Young, who made his return to the lineup on Thursday night, doubled to deep left to bring Valencia home and make the score 3-2. The rally was then capped by Trevor Plouffe, also making his return to the lineup, launching a two-run homer into the left field seats to put the Twins ahead 4-3.

Minnesota scored another quartet of runs in the bottom of the seventh, when reliever Blake Wood came into the game for the Royals in relief of Chen. After Young singled to center for his third hit of the evening (and was lifted for pinch-runner Jason Repko), Plouffe drew a walk, and Luke Hughes sacrificed the two runners up 90 feet to put runners on second and third with one out. Wood then seemingly forgot where exactly home plate was located, as he walked Tsuyoshi Nishioka to load the bases, and then walked Ben Revere to force a run home and make the score 5-3. He then hit Casilla with a pitch to force in another run, making the score 6-3. Everett Teaford then came in to relieve Wood, and was greeted by a Joe Mauer single to center field to score both Nishioka and Revere to move the score up to 8-3.

The Royals managed to sneak a run across in the top of the ninth when Melky Cabrera lifted a sacrifice fly off of Phil Dumatrait to make the score 8-4, but would get no closer as Dumatrait retired Gordon on strikes to end the game.

Liriano (6-7, 4.76 ERA) got the victory for Minnesota, settling down after the shaky start to allow three runs on seven hits while striking out four in seven innings of work. Chen (5-3, 3.56 ERA) took the loss for Kansas City, allowing four runs on nine hits in five innings pitched.

The same two teams will get together on Friday night at Target Field, with the first pitch scheduled to take place at 7:10 PM Central time. Right-hander Luke Hochevar (5-8, 5.46 ERA) will get the ball for Kansas City, while the Twins will turn to righty Nick Blackburn (7-6, 4.24 ERA).

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