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.