Kurt Suzuki rarely makes errors or hits home runs. He did both on Saturday night, and the homer made up for a bad throw that could have cost Minnesota another game.
The All-Star catcher went 2 for 3 with a solo homer and made an impressive slide into home plate that helped lift the Twins over first-place the Kansas City Royals 4-1.
Suzuki redeemed himself for an errant throw in the fourth that allowed Nori Aoki to score after stealing third and give Kansas City a 1-0 lead. The mistake came with his starting pitcher, Phil Hughes, looking dominant and locked in a duel with hard-throwing rookie Yordano Ventura.
"The hardest part is Phil was throwing so good and for me to do something like that, that’s what really got me a little bit," Suzuki said.
It was his fourth error of the season.
"It was pretty brutal," Suzuki said. "It was just one of those things where you get your body moving too quick and I lost the ball probably about right before my arm started coming forward. I said, ‘This is not good.’"
It looked as if that run would be all the Royals needed to win their fourth in a row. Ventura had dominated Minnesota’s lineup with his power for most of the night, consistently hitting into the upper-90s.
Hughes (13-8) allowed one run, seven hits and struck out six over 7 1/3 to outlast the young righty.
"You just don’t want to be the guy that breaks first," Hughes said. "Obviously in a situation like that, I knew that one run might not be good enough and I had to at least keep it there."
Ventura (9-9) threw six innings of one-hit ball before the Twins broke through in the seventh. With runners on second and third, Ventura threw a 99-mph fastball that shattered Danny Santana’s bat — but Santana reached base when Billy Butler tried to throw out Suzuki at home. The throw was in time, but the tag by catcher Salvador Perez was off, and Suzuki scored.
Brian Dozier followed with his 25th double of the season to score pinch-runner Eduardo Escobar. Kennys Vargas chased Ventura two batters later with a sacrifice fly to score Santana.
"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."
Hughes has won three in a row after losing three straight starts. He also has allowed only three runs this month. Casey Fien pitched to two batters in the eighth and Glen Perkins pitched the ninth for this 31st save in 34 chances.
SUZUKI’S HOMER SURPRISES
Suzuki’s solo homer in the eighth off Aaron Crow was his first since May 20, a span of 217 at-bats. Asked if manager Ron Gardenhire said anything to him in the dugout, Suzuki laughed and said: "Yeah, he said, ‘What happened? Where’d that come from?’"
WALKS, WALKS AND MORE WALKS
Ventura struggled with his command, walking a season-high six batters and getting called for a balk in the third inning. Still, he had a no-hitter through four innings despite allowing six baserunners. None of his walks came around to score. The Royals lost a game Ventura started for just the second time in the last nine starts.
"Command was off a little bit, but he did a nice job getting us to the seventh with a one-run lead," manager Ned Yost said.
Twins: A week after severely spraining his right ankle, RHP Anthony Swarzak appears to be fine and has avoided the disabled list. "He came and did everything out in the pen yesterday, actually simulated running off the mound going to first base. He’s fine," Gardenhire said.
Kansas City’s Jeremy Guthrie (8-10) will pitch Sunday against Tommy Milone (6-3) in the third of this four-game series. Guthrie will try to bounce back from his previous start when he allowed six runs — four earned — against Oakland on Tuesday as the A’s snapped the Royals’ eight-game winning streak. Milone makes his second start for the Twins since being acquired from Oakland last month.