Twins 4, Royals 3
Stewart hit a tying, three-run homer in the sixth inning and the go-ahead RBI single in the seventh to help the Twins knock the Kansas City Royals out of first place with a 4-3 victory Thursday night.
“I’ve never been a part of anything like this, especially this late in the season,” said Stewart, acquired July 16 from Toronto after spending parts of nine seasons with the Blue Jays. “Every time you go up there, it means something.”
The Chicago White Sox lead the AL Central by a half-game over Minnesota and one game over Kansas City, which has lost four straight and seven of nine. The Royals fell behind the Twins for the first time since June 30—they play three more times this weekend.
Kansas City manager Tony Pena, however, refused to fret.
“We’ll be back tomorrow!” Pena said emphatically after finishing his postgame interview, flipping both thumbs up as if he were a politician running for office.
Stewart has given the Twins a veteran leadoff hitter who doesn’t give away at-bats, unlike many of the free-swingers in their lineup. Minnesota didn’t have a hit through five innings against Paul Abbott and trailed 3-0, but in a matter of 11 pitches Abbott lost his no-hit bid, his shutout and his lead.
“Unfortunately, you play nine,” Abbott said.
Cristian Guzman walked, and Stewart—in a 5-for-30 slump—sent an 0-1 slider into the left-field seats to tie it at 3.
“He picked us up big-time,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
“He’s going to bang the ball somewhere,” Gardenhire said.
Kenny Rogers (11-6), the winner in Minnesota’s 9-2 victory over the Royals last Friday, entered having given up just four earned runs in his last 22 innings. This time, he found a way to overcome a shaky start.
“He gave us a chance,” Pierzynski said.
Rogers gave up three runs, three walks and nine hits in seven innings, striking out three and winning his third straight start. He held on long enough for Stewart’s big hits to mean something.
“I knew he’d be a good addition,” Rogers said.
“The games are going to be like this the next three days,” Guardado said.
Joe Randa, who went 3-for-4, doubled in Aaron Guiel to put Kansas City up 1-0 after just two batters, and Brent Mayne led off the third with a homer to right that landed about a foot inside the foul pole and a foot over the wall.
With the bases loaded and one out, Mayne hit a hard grounder to first baseman Matthew LeCroy, who threw home to get the force. Pierzynski fired back to first and the throw hit Mayne and skipped away, but Rivas backed up the bag and threw home to get Harvey at the plate and complete a 3-2-4-2 double play.
“When you can minimize the damage like that, it gives you a chance,” Rogers said.
Abbott, who pitched in parts of three seasons for Minnesota in the early 1990s and was acquired by the Royals in an Aug. 8 trade with Arizona, didn’t make it out of the sixth. He allowed three hits, three runs and four walks in 5 2-3 innings while striking out four and lowering his ERA to 8.80.
“Paul pitched great, but we left too many runners on base,” Randa said.“This team isn’t going to go away quietly.”
The Twins won for the first time in nine home games this year in front of a crowd of 30,000 or more. … Randa has 11 hits in his last 19 at-bats. … Minnesota has won six of Rogers’ seven starts in the second half. … It was Stewart’s fifth career four-RBI game. … The Twins are 16-4-2 in series when they win the first game. … Abbott’s last win in the majors came with Seattleon April 13, 2002.