MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Jim Thome’s(notes) home run in the fifth inning was one of those shots that fans will remember for a while. But it was Jason Kubel’s(notes) homer moments earlier that sparked the Minnesota Twins to another win.
Kubel hit the go-ahead homer and Thome launched his 585th career home run one batter later, powering the Minnesota Twins past the Kansas City Royals 5-4 Monday.
The fifth-inning homers kept the Twins 3 1/2 games ahead of Chicago in the AL Central. The White Sox beat Detroit 5-4 in 10 innings.
“Biggest hit of the ballgame right there,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Kubel’s opposite-field home run. “That really got us going and gave us a lift.”
Just as fans were settling back into their seats at Target Field, Thome hit a blast off the top of the American flagpole beyond the right-field bleachers.
“I was in the middle of him throwing a fastball and a changeup,” Thome said while trying to suppress a grin. “He threw a changeup and I was fortunate to square it up. It feels very good when you square one up like that, for sure.”
He is one homer shy of Frank Robinson for eighth all-time.
The homer by Thome traveled so far and was so high, it required multiple viewings by the Twins public relations staff to get an accurate estimated distance. It was eventually announced at 480 feet.
With the score 2-all, Kubel hit his two-run homer off O’Sullivan (2-5). Thome connected one batter later.
“For me, the big play was just Mitch’s line drive,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “Because you can’t scald a ball any harder than he hit it with the bases loaded. Right at him.”
Five different Twins relievers helped preserve the victory, Minnesota’s 17th in its last 20 home games.
The Twins have relied a lot on their bullpen lately. Eight of Minnesota’s last nine games have been decided by one run.
“You don’t have to tell me that, I know,” Gardenhire said. “We can’t get to sleep at night. We’ve needed our bullpen to step up for us and we’re going to need them down the stretch.”
The Royals play both the Twins and the White Sox this week and Yost said before the game that he plans to play his best players in each game.
“In fairness to Minnesota and Chicago, we’re playing everyone at their best position,” he said. “Of course I have guys I want to look at and evaluate in certain situations, but we’re going to do that more after this week.”
The Royals certainly didn’t look like a team that was just playing out the string.
After the Twins went ahead in the fifth, an RBI double from Pena and a groundout by Betancourt made it 5-4.
“When you’re playing games like these, even though for you it’s not a playoff game or whatever, it has that feel still,” Maier said. “So to get to play games like these where you’ve got big crowds and every pitch means something, it’s only going to make us better.”
Notes: The Twins are 10-3 against the Royals this season. … Twins 3B Danny Valencia’s(notes) hamstring continues to improve, but the team wants to give him extra time to make sure he doesn’t sustain a more serious injury when he returns. … Gardenhire also said INF Nick Punto(notes) is about four or five days from coming off the disabled list (hamstring). Reliever Brian Fuentes(notes) (back) threw on Monday and should be available soon. … The Royals called up OF Jarrod Dyson from Triple-A Omaha on Monday. He was the Royals’ 50th-round draft pick in 2006. … Royals utility man Willie Bloomquist(notes) missed the game to attend to a personal matter back home. Yost said Bloomquist should return on Tuesday or Wednesday. … Billy Butler(notes) has hit safely in 90 consecutive series, tying the Royals’ club record set by Willie Wilson from 1979-81.