Royals build early cushion, whip Twins

Joe Oberle, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Kansas Royals scored early and often against the Minnesota Twins on Friday night at Target Field and evened the series with a convincing 9-3 win.
The Royals, who produced only one run in the opening game of the four-game series, scored in four of the first five innings to put the Twins in a deep hole. That gave Royals starter James Shields all he needed to secure the win.
Shields made Twins hitters look foolish in the early going, striking out four of the first six batters he faced and getting the other two on weak infield grounders. He threw 117 pitches in 6 1/3 innings, giving up three runs and eight hits while issuing no walks and striking out five.
Twins starter P.J. Walters had his second straight poor outing. He lasted three innings and served up two of the Royals' season-high four home runs in the game.
"That's two (games) in a row I haven't done my job," Walters said. "Falling behind. Last week, it was walking guys. Today, it was falling behind, giving up hits. But either way, that's two bad ones in a row, I've got to come back and straighten some things out."
The Twins tried to make a game of it, but the Royals held them off. Eric Hosmer hit his second homer of the night in the seventh -- a two-run blast to dead center off reliever Anthony Swarzak -- to extend the Royals' four-run lead to six and bury the Twins.
"Hos with two homers, he's really starting to get his power stroke going," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He's pulling balls -- that's what we were talking about getting him back into. He really smoked that high fastball over the centerfield wall."
Walters, who was coming off his worst outing of the season (six runs and five walks in 2/3 innings), had more first-inning trouble against the Royals.
Walters walked Alcides Escobar and then gave up a hard single up the middle to Hosmer. Billy Butler knocked them both in with his sixth homer of the season -- a shot to center -- for a quick 3-0 Royals lead.
"I think Billy in that first inning with that big swing, that's what defines a leader of the offense there," Hosmer said. "After that first swing, that really opened up the offense and we kept getting the big hit or big swing with guys in scoring position."
In the second, Alex Gordon drilled another single up the middle, narrowly missing Walters. It scored Lorenzo Cain, who had doubled earlier.
The Royals added two in the third when Butler singled and Mike Moustakas hit a home run into the second deck of right field.
Walters, who gave up six runs and six hits and one walk, did not come out for the fourth inning.
"Walters couldn't make his pitches and get the ball where he wanted to," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "So it was just bad night for him. (The Royals') big guys in the middle were putting it in the seats and kind of pounding us a little bit. Tough night for us. It all starts with your starter and he just didn't get it done tonight."
The Twins got to Shields in the fourth with a single by Josh Willingham and an RBI double by Justin Morneau -- his third double of the series.
Trevor Plouffe moved Morneau up with a single to left and then Brian Dozier, with his second hit of the game, doubled home Morneau. David Lough made a diving catch in right to prevent any further damage.
"Our defense has been spectacular -- it's been borderline spectacular every night," Yost said. "But we made some great defensive plays to help Shields out. The Lough play was a great play at the point. It was a heck of a catch and that saved him two runs right there -- it was a great play."
The Royals got one run back in the fifth on a homer by Hosmer --- the Royals' third home run in the game. Clete Thomas answered in the Twins' half of the inning with a homer of his own, cutting the Royals' lead to 7-3.
NOTES: The Royals are 6-2 against the Twins this season, but both losses came against Twins pitcher Samuel Deduno, who got the win on Thursday. ... Thr Royals' 3-1 loss to the Twins was the ninth in the last 11 to be decided by two runs or less. The Royals are 4-5 in those games. ... Before Friday, the Twins were 11-4 in their last 15 games at Target Field, outscoring opponents 69-48 in those games.

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