Royals beat Twins, sweep series for 5th win in row
The Kansas City Royals are hoping to make another push for a playoff spot, and their latest successful series at Target Field is definitely going to help.
Bruce Chen bounced back with a solid start and the Royals earned their fifth consecutive win with a 3-1 victory over Minnesota, sending the slumping Twins to their fifth straight loss.
''This was a nice series for us,'' Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. ''We did everything really well, we pitched well, swung the bats well, played solid defense.''
The Royals outscored Minnesota 17-3 in the three-game set to finish the season series with a 15-4 record against their AL Central rival. Kansas City has won seven straight at Target Field.
''They've probably had our number in the past, so it's tough to say anything bad about them,'' said second baseman Chris Getz, who had one of Kansas City's three RBI singles.
Coupled with Oakland's 7-6 loss in Detroit, the Royals are six games back of the A's for the AL's second wild-card slot.
''I couldn't even tell you who's ahead of us,'' Yost said. ''My focus is if we win everything else takes care of itself.''
Getting Chen back on track certainly helps.
Chen (6-2), who is good at deception and changing speeds, gave up one run and five hits in 5 2-3 innings. In his past two starts, he allowed 13 runs in nine innings. Before those two, he had allowed just three earned runs in 38 2-3 innings over six starts.
''I went back and tried to be more aggressive,'' Chen said. ''I wanted to make sure I pound the strike zone.''
Kelvin Herrera and Will Smith combined for 2 1-3 innings of scoreless relief. Greg Holland pitched a scoreless ninth for his 36th save in 38 chances.
''It was a total team effort,'' Chen said. ''We won collectively.''
The Twins hit just 15 for 91 (.165) in the series. Brian Dozier homered for Minnesota, which has totaled just six runs during its skid.
Minnesota is one game ahead of last-place Chicago in the division.
''It's a tough time of the year,'' said bench coach Terry Steinbach, who filled in when manager Ron Gardenhire was ejected in the second inning. ''They don't call it the `Dog Days of August' for nothing, and whether you're in first place or last place or somewhere in the middle, as players and as organizations and teams you've got to figure out a way to get through this stuff.''
Justin Maxwell was hit by a pitch - the ninth batter plunked this season by Twins starter Samuel Deduno - and both benches were warned by plate umpire Alan Porter. Gardenhire came out to protest and was tossed for the fourth time this year.
Maxwell was hit by a pitch in Wednesday night. Salvador Perez homered twice in that game for the Royals and had a fastball come in high and tight.
''I don't think they were trying to hit me on purpose,'' Maxwell said. ''I'm just glad it helped lead to a big inning.''
Getz, Alcides Escobar and Alex Gordon singled home runs in the second.
Deduno (8-8) allowed three runs in three innings before leaving because of soreness in his right shoulder. An MRI is scheduled for Friday.
He said he felt a little pain when trying to throw his fastball hard.
''I wanted to be aggressive. That's when I felt it,'' he said. ''I wanted to keep pitching, but they told me they want to see what's wrong with my shoulder.''
Deduno had been bothered by biceps tendinitis in his throwing arm earlier this month but told the team he was feeling fine.
Dozier homered in the sixth to make it 3-1. His 14th homer tied him with Tim Teufel (1984) for most homers in a season by a Minnesota second baseman.
Already playing short-handed because outfielder Oswaldo Arcia was unavailable with a sore wrist, Minnesota lost right fielder Wilkin Ramirez in the fifth inning after he fouled a ball off his left shin. He was scheduled for an MRI later Thursday.
NOTES: Minnesota C Joe Mauer, out since Aug. 20 with a concussion, said before the game he is ''feeling better,'' but is not close to returning. ''It's not any fun watching, so hopefully I can get back there soon,'' he said. ... Perez, who was 11 for 22 with four homers and 13 RBIs in his previous five games, did not start. He singled as a pinch hitter in the ninth. ... Ervin Santana (8-7, 3.21 ERA) starts for Kansas City on Friday when the Royals open a three-game series in Toronto. Mark Buehrle (10-7, 4.08 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Blue Jays. ... Minnesota opens a weekend series at Texas on Friday with Liam Hendriks (0-2, 6.20 ERA) scheduled to face the Rangers' Yu Darvish (12-5, 2.68 ERA).