MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins have hit a bunch of home runs lately, a bright spot in a lost season.
Hustle was the winning formula on Wednesday night.
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Miguel Sano legged out a couple of ground balls to create a pair of early runs before his RBI double tied the game in the decisive seventh inning, helping the Twins dodge a series sweep by beating the Kansas City Royals 6-5.
"We always talk about doing the little things right," said Brian Dozier, whose club-tying record home run streak ended at five straight games.
Dozier, though, singled and stole second before scoring on Sano’s double off Joakim Soria (4-8). Dozier also started a dazzling double play to finish the fifth inning, with a diving stop of Eric Hosmer’s sharp grounder and a glove flick to second base to get the ball out while he was flat on the dirt.
Alex Wimmers (1-1) pitched a scoreless seventh in relief of Kyle Gibson to record his first major league victory. Brandon Kintzler gave up a two-out RBI single before finishing the ninth inning for his 14th save in 16 attempts.
Sano beat a relay throw in the first inning to stave off a double play after his bouncer back to the mound and later scored on Robbie Grossman’s single. In the fifth, the burly slugger ran fast enough after his routine grounder to be safe when shortstop Alcides Escobar threw high to first for an error. Byron Buxton raced home from second base to score on the play, touching home plate as he hurdled Sano’s bat with a head-first dive to elude Butera’s tag.
"I saw that play a few times where the runner stopped at third and he could’ve had a chance at scoring, so I know I’ve got to be ready every play and make sure I go full effort," Buxton said.
First Sano. Then Buxton. The Twins were a blur on the basepaths.
"His speed paid off, for sure," manager Paul Molitor said about Buxton. "That’s something we try to teach to be prepared to do if they make a mistake."
Grossman and Buxton each homered for the Twins, who won for only the third time in their last 20 games.
"That’s part of baseball life. Sometimes you pitch good, sometimes not," Soria said.
Kendrys Morales had three hits, including his sixth home run in the last eight games, and Drew Butera also went deep for the Royals. Danny Duffy struck out 10 batters without a walk over six innings, but the bullpen cost Kansas City an opportunity to creep forward in the AL wild-card race. The Royals stayed four games behind Baltimore, which holds the second spot.
"We had a chance to pick up ground," manager Ned Yost said. "So that definitely hurts."
MORALES OF THE STORY
Morales, who also drove in a run with a fourth-inning single, went deep to lead off the sixth. He has a 10-game hitting streak, with 15 RBIs and 17 hits in 42 at-bats for a .405 batting average during the stretch.
LESSON NOT LEARNED
Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando started the game with singles, but both of them were picked off first base with a quick throw by the right-handed Gibson, who had only six pickoffs in 93 previous major league starts.
Twins 3B Trevor Plouffe was diagnosed with a strain of the intercostal and oblique muscles on his left side, his third injury this year to that area including a broken rib. With only 22 games to go, he’s not likely to play again this season. Sano’s presence means Plouffe might have played his last game for the team that drafted him in the first round in 2004.
"If it happens that that was my last at-bat, it would be pretty sad. I hope it’s not," said Plouffe, who is making $7.25 million with one more year of eligibility for salary arbitration. "My No. 1 thing, if I had my choice, would be to be back here."
LONG WAY, MATES
The parents of Twins rookie James Beresford traveled 25 hours from their native Australia to surprise their son in a touching moment outside the clubhouse before the game that the team arranged. The 27-year-old Beresford, an infielder, played in 1,070 minor league games before being called up on Tuesday.
ROYALS: Butera played behind the plate for Perez, who was out with a bruised right wrist after being hit there by a pitch the night before.
TWINS: 1B Joe Mauer was given a day to rest his strained quadriceps muscles, an injury that has lingered for the last three weeks.
ROYALS: After a travel day, Kansas City plays on Friday in Chicago. RHP Yordano Ventura (10-9, 4.22 ERA) will pitch, opposite LHP Carlos Rodon (6-8, 3.90 ERA) of the White Sox.
TWINS: Following an off day at home, Minnesota hosts division-leading Cleveland on Friday. RHP Tyler Duffey (8-10, 6.24 ERA) pitches for the Twins, against RHP Danny Salazar (11-6, 3.78 ERA) of the Indians.