Scott Diamond throws another dud as Royals complete three-game sweep
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Kansas City Royals won their ninth straight game, stretching their longest winning streak in more than a decade by beating Minnesota 7-2 Thursday behind Billy Butler's hitting and Lorenzo Cain's highlight reel catch in center field.
The Royals last won nine straight when they opened the 2003 season at 9-0. The last time Kansas City won more in a row was a 10-game string in 1994, STATS said.
Butler had two hits and drove in two runs. Justin Maxwell had a hit and an RBI a day after being acquired in a trade with Houston.
James Shields (6-7) gave up two runs on five hits and five walks in six innings for the Royals, who swept the three-game series and are showing potential to be a factor late in the season.
Shields needed 116 pitches to get through six innings. But against a Twins offense that doesn't hit for power, doesn't hit with runners in scoring position and doesn't steal bases, he was never really in trouble.
Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe misplayed a potential double-play ball to load the bases in the second inning, and Mike Moustakas and Maxwell drove runs in to get the Royals on the board. Eric Hosmer added a sacrifice fly in the third inning for a 3-0 lead.
Morneau, who hit .175 with four homers and five RBIs in all of July, went deep to straightaway center field to make it 3-2 in the third. Morneau's July swoon probably prevented the struggling Twins from trading him before the non-waiver deadline on Wednesday, but the one-time franchise cornerstone is still a candidate to be moved in August if he can regain his power stroke.
Shields was laboring in the fifth and the Royals were clinging to a 5-2 lead when Plouffe sent a sky-high fly ball toward the bullpen in left-center field. After a long run, Cain leaped at the wall and snatched the ball just before it was about to go over the fence, taking away what would have been a two-run homer.
Shields thrust both arms into the air and let out a shout as Cain came bounding back toward the dugout, laughing and hollering the whole way back. It's been that kind of fun for the Royals of late, but they sure could use some cooperation from the Tigers and Indians in the AL Central.
Despite running off the longest active winning streak in the majors, they have made up little ground in the division. The Tigers had won nine of their last 10 heading into the day and Cleveland was 8-2 in that span to keep Kansas City at a comfortable distance.
Cain had a hit, drew three walks and scored twice. ... Twins GM Terry Ryan said OF Josh Willingham (left knee) will leave for a rehab assignment with Triple-A Rochester this weekend. Willingham had surgery to repair a torn meniscus on July 3 and said he hoped to be back with the Twins as soon as next weekend's series against the Chicago White Sox. ... The Twins open a series against Houston at home on Friday. RHP Samuel Deduno (7-4, 3.18) will start the opener for the Twins. ... The Royals head to New York for a three-game series against the Mets. RHP Wade Davis (5-9, 5.50) will start against New York RHP Dillon Gee (7-8, 4.13).© The Associated Press