Squandered opportunities prove costly as Twins can't slow down Royals
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Alex Gordon hit a two-out triple in the seventh inning and then scored the go-ahead run for Kansas City on an error by Minnesota, and the Royals won their eighth straight game with a 4-3 victory over the Twins on Wednesday night.
The Royals are above .500 at the end of July for the first time since 2003. At 53-51, they are two games over the break-even mark for the first time since May 17. They remained seven games behind Detroit in the AL Central race and 4 1/2 games back of second-place Cleveland, the current holder of the second wild card spot.
Jeremy Guthrie (11-7) won his third start in a row with his seventh consecutive appearance of at least six innings.
Pedro Florimon homered in the fifth for the Twins, but he struck out with the bases loaded to end the sixth. Then in the seventh, with Gordon on third, the shortstop shuffled to his left to get his body behind a grounder up the middle hit by Eric Hosmer. Florimon failed to pick up the ball, though, as his momentum carried him past it. Gordon scored, and so did Hosmer one batter later on Billy Butler's single off reliever Caleb Thielbar (1-1).
Aaron Hicks took a bad angle toward Gordon's drive off the center-field wall, and the ball ricocheted past him to let Gordon get another base.
Guthrie improved to 7-3 in his career against the Twins, including 3-1 this season. He surrendered six hits, two runs and two walks in six innings while striking out five. The Twins started the sixth with three straight singles and tied the game on Chris Herrmann's one-out walk. But Hicks popped out to second base, and Florimon fanned on three pitches.
The Royals, who have the league's second-best team ERA, have relied on their rotation for this midsummer surge. The starters have allowed 11 earned runs in 72 innings over the past eight games.
Ryan Doumit and Trevor Plouffe greeted Kelvin Herrera in the eighth inning with doubles, slicing the lead to 4-3. Hicks added a one-out infield single. But Aaron Crow came in to strike out the last two batters.
Greg Holland pitched the ninth for his 28th save in 30 tries. Joe Mauer took second base on a one-out single and a throwing error by shortstop Alcides Escobar, but Justin Morneau and Ryan Doumit struck out to end the game.
The Royals are 9-3 against the Twins this season and 26-19 against the division.
Twins starter Kevin Correia gave up 10 hits over six innings, but he struck out three without a walk and somehow limited the damage to two runs on an RBI single by Miguel Tejada and a sacrifice fly by Butler.
Tejada was thrown out at home on a comebacker to the mound, Hosmer was thrown out at third on the sacrifice fly and Butler grounded into a double play. David Lough was caught stealing, too.
The streak helped the Royals keep their roster intact after the non-waiver trade deadline. They even added some depth, acquiring Justin Maxwell from Houston to bring in a speedy right-handed batter who can play all three outfield spots.
The Twins didn't trade anyone off their major league roster, either, to the temporary relief of Morneau, the cornerstone first baseman who hasn't been the same since the concussion that ended his 2010 season. Morneau, though, noted the remaining possibility he could be dealt in August by clearing waivers. He's in the final year of his contract.
Despite being out of the playoff chase for a third straight season, the Twins weren't able to persuade a contender to give up a prospect or two for one of their veterans. Correia and fellow starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey were among the top candidates to be moved, along with Morneau, Doumit and a few relievers. But all general manager Terry Ryan ended up doing was dealing minor league catcher Drew Butera to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"I told Pelfrey that he was supposed to be part of the Dodger trade, but they have a time limit on their games," manager Ron Gardenhire quipped before the game. "Trying to loosen the tension in here, and he laughed so that was good and we can move forward from there."
The Royals rested 2B Chris Getz (sore left knee) and CF Lorenzo Cain (sore groin) again as a precaution, but manager Ned Yost said they've both improved. He said he'd probably wait until Friday to play Getz. ... Florimon has seven homers, just three off the team lead, shared by Trevor Plouffe and Josh Willingham. Florimon's minor league season high for home runs was nine. ... The Royals will send RHP James Shields (5-7, 3.09 ERA) to the mound in the series finale Thursday afternoon for his team-high 23rd start, facing Twins LHP Scott Diamond (5-9, 5.26 ERA). Diamond allowed just one run in six innings in his last appearance, only the third quality start of his previous 14 turns. Shields has only lost twice to the Twins in 12 career starts.© The Associated Press