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).