KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Twins’ Ricky Nolasco battled through a bout of the flu while scattering three hits over seven shutout innings. Jared Burton shut down Kansas City in a quiet eighth.
When closer Glen Perkins came out for the ninth, well, Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire summed up what happened next: “I don’t think anybody saw that coming – a bloop and a blast and a big walk-off for them.”
Alcides Escobar provided the bloop, a single to right field. Alex Gordon provided the blast, a homer that just cleared the right-field wall. The result was a dramatic 2-1 victory for Kansas City on Tuesday night that helped the club avoid its first three-game skid since July.
“We had a really good game out of Ricky. I feel bad for him because he pitched seven shutout innings and threw the ball well,” said Perkins (3-1), who had converted 18 straight saves on the road. “He and the team don’t have anything to show for it. It’s not a fun feeling.”
Gordon said he didn’t think that the ball was going to clear the fence.
“Got a slider over the plate and put a good swing on it,” he said. “Really didn’t have any offense going all night and was able to muster up something, so that was great.”
Wade Davis (7-2) earned the win with a perfect ninth inning in relief.
Danny Duffy was nearly as sharp for the Royals as Nolasco was for Minnesota. The left-hander allowed four hits and a pair of walks over 6 2-3 innings, but was in line for the loss after giving up a double to Brian Dozier and a slicing single to Joe Mauer to start the seventh.
The Royals had several chances to push a run across much earlier – and with much less drama.
Billy Butler was hit by pitches from Nolasco on two occasions, and the first time – in the second inning – he advanced to third before getting stranded. Christian Colon was left standing on second in the third inning, and Jarrod Dyson was picked off first base in the sixth.
Dyson was also picked off first base in Monday night’s 1-0 loss to the Yankees.
The Twins also had opportunities to push across an early run. Trevor Plouffe grounded into inning-ending double plays in the second and fifth, and Danny Santana was picked off first base in the fourth. Eduardo Escobar was stranded at second base in the sixth.
Those missed chances proved to be important when the ninth inning rolled around.
“You’ve been kind of stymied all night long, the ninth inning comes along and a base hit and kaboom, the game is over,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “I myself would prefer a bigger margin than having to take it down to the ninth inning, but I’ll take it.”
There were only 13,847 fans in attendance, and the empty seats certainly caught Yost’s eye. “We’re in a pennant race,” he said. “We’ve been working hard to try to make our fans happy and make our fans proud of us for a lot of years, and we’d like them out here to enjoy a night like this with us, because this was a special night. A fun night. I just wish there could have been more out here to enjoy it with us.”
The warm, muggy night at Kauffman Stadium may have been helpful for Nolasco, who has been dealing with an illness going through the clubhouse. “The heat may have helped him,” Gardenhire said. “He sweat some of that out.”
Twins: OF Byron Buxton, one of baseball’s top prospects, is headed for the Arizona Fall League. Buxton is still recovering from post-concussion symptoms – primarily headaches – that he sustained after an outfield collision at Double-A New Britain on Aug. 13.
Royals: RHP Yordano Ventura will miss his start Wednesday night with soreness in his back, and 2B Omar Infante could miss a couple days with shoulder inflammation. “Everybody is dealing with something this time of year,” Yost said. “My feet hurt.”
Twins: RHP Phil Hughes (14-8, 3.65 ERA) tries to win his fifth straight when he faces Kansas City for the fifth time this season.
Royals: RHP Liam Hendriks makes his Royals debut after arriving in a trade from Toronto. Hendriks spent his first three seasons with Minnesota. “It’ll be interesting,” Hendriks said of facing his former team. “It could be really good or really bad.”