Maybe David Lough felt a little less pressure going into Sunday’s game. A day after Jeff Francoeur was designated for assignment, Lough exploded for four extra base hits and scored four times while the Royals beat the Twins to secure a series split at Target Field.
Lough hit a blooper in the third inning and raced to second base, then scored two batters later on an Alex Gordon sacrifice fly. The next inning, he drilled a ball off the right field wall and drove in two. In the top of the sixth, he lined a ball that skipped past Twins right fielder Chris Parmelee and went to the wall. Lough scored again in that inning. Then, to cap things off, he homered in the top of the eighth to break up a 7-7 tie.
His final line – 10 total bases, three doubles, a homer, four runs scored, three RBI.
Lough wasn’t the only big contributor. In his first game in the big leagues this year, Johnny Giavotella drove in the Royals first run in the third on a grounder up the middle that he beat out for a base hit. Lorenzo Cain scored on the play and it set up Lough to get to third for Gordon’s sacrifice fly to drive him in. He floated a single into the outfield in the fourth to score Lough, then added a bloop double in the sixth that put him in position to score right behind Lough on an Alcides Escobar single. Gio got a perfect read and break on the ball and was about forty feet behind his former Omaha roommate.
Giavotella also threw out a runner by ranging to his left and making a jump throw to Eric Hosmer. Not a bad way to celebrate just his 100th career big league game.
But the Twins wouldn’t go away. They worked some walks off Ervin Santana (with the aid of a somewhat tight zone) and got the benefit of a couple of errors to stay close even after the Royals built leads of 5-1 and 7-4. Clete Thomas hit a two run homer off Santana and Justin Morneau crushed a pitch by Tim Collins. It took a ground rule double to prevent the Twins from retaking the lead. In the bottom of the seventh, Josh Willingham doubled to left with two on. Oswaldo Arcia scored but Parmelee had to stay at third since it bounced over the left-field fence. Aaron Crow then got a strikeout and ground out to escape the jam.
The next inning Lough hit his homer to give the Royals the lead and Eric Hosmer – who’d had a rough day to that point with two GIDPs – homered to left on the first pitch from Josh Roenicke, a nice punctuation mark on his nice June. That extended the lead to 9-7, and after Trevor Plouffe homered on a 2-1 pitch by Greg Holland, turned into a big run. Holland struck out the next three batters on three pitches each to secure the win, however.
Santana looked mortal, but still got through six innings. He battled a rough strike zone and a couple of misplays behind him but if this is one of his worse starts of the year, the Royals will definitely take it. Tim Collins had trouble hitting the zone, and when he did, the results weren’t good. He retired just one batter, otherwise allowing a base hit to Ryan Doumit on a close play at first, then served up the Morneau homer. He followed that up in the best way you can if you want a team to get back into the game – by walking Plouffe on four pitches. After a ground out, he walked another and gave way to Crow.
But the big deal today was the play of Lough and Giavotella. The bottom of the order (Cain, Lough, Giavotella) was 8-12 with six runs scored and five driven in. You can’t expect to get that every day, but when it happens, it’s good to go get the win. We’ll see if the Lough/Giavotella duo can keep adding some spark to the offense. If they can, and with Hosmer’s renewed power and Moustakas’s slow creep back to viability, the second half of the season could become interesting.