The Kansas City Royals escaped Minnesota with a crucial series victory on Sunday. Lorenzo Cain proved to be the hero with his clutch two-run triple. Next up: three games in Detroit.
The center fielder made a costly error in the bottom of the sixth inning, which helped allow Minnesota to turn a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 lead. To his credit, Cain bounced right back to drive in the go-ahead runs just one-half inning later.
With two outs and runners at first and second, Cain looked to have struck out on a check-swing. First-base umpire Mike Muchlinski said Cain held up, and Twins manager Paul Molitor subsequently got ejected.
Having been given new life, the speedster drove the eighth pitch of his at-bat over the head of Byron Buxton. The Twins center fielder crashed into the wall chasing the ball, forcing his teammates to chase it down.
Cain ran through a Mike Jirschele stop-sign at third base and got himself thrown out at home. But the damage was already done, as Alcides Escobar and Whit Merrifield, who both reached with two outs, came in to score.
The Kansas City Royals bullpen combined to shut Minnesota out the rest of the way.
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That doesn’t mean the remainder of the game was without drama.
Mike Minor allowed a pair of two-out walks—one of which involved an even more egregious check-swing ruling—in the eighth inning. However, Cain saved the day again with a running catch in center.
Defensive replacement Alex Gordon failed to reel in a ball in the gap off Eduardo Escobar‘s bat to begin the frame. Maurer, though, came through with a strikeout. Gordon, then, redeemed himself with an excellent sliding grab in left field. Brian Dozier followed with a pop-up to Merrifield.
It allowed the Kansas City Royals to escape Minnesota with a 5-4 victory and a series win. Despite being outscored 27-12—exacerbated by Saturday’s 17-0 curb-stomping—over the weekend, the Kansas City Royals narrowed the Twins’ lead in the Wild Card standings.
Kansas City will head to Detroit 3.5 games back of Minnesota.
It will be a new-look Tigers bunch waiting for them. Justin Verlander and Justin Upton made late-August moves to American League West Division teams Houston and Los Angeles, respectively. Miguel Cabrera will be serving part of his brawl-induced suspension, and Victor Martinez has been shut down for the season with a heart issue.
The Kansas City Royals, who always seem to play better when their backs are against the wall, knew this weekend would likely make-or-break their September.
Even with Saturday’s drubbing, Ned Yost‘s pitching plan has, in theory, paid off. He decided to give Ian Kennedy and Jason Vargas a day off. While it led to three guys who have no business pitching at the major-league level throwing on Saturday, Kennedy looked better on Sunday than he has in quite some time.
After four nearly flawless innings, Kennedy gave up a two-run shot to Escobar in the fifth. Cain’s error was the only thing that kept him from a perfect sixth inning. He eventually left in favor of Scott Alexander but two earned runs over 5 2/3 innings isn’t too shabby.
The win pulls the Kansas City Royals within a game of .500 at 67-68. With three games in Detroit and four at home this coming weekend against Minnesota, the team has a chance to start a September turnaround this week.
Whether that happens remains to be seen, but a series win on the road at the second Wild Card leader is a massive result. It at least gives the Kansas City Royals the chance to keep their playoff hopes alive. That’s all the team and its fans can hope for at this moment.