MINNEAPOLIS -- The Kansas City Royals remained the hottest team in baseball on Thursday afternoon when they downed the Minnesota Twins 7-2 at Target Field.
Royals starter James Shields allowed two runs, five hits and five walks in six innings. He struck out four for his sixth win of the season. He pitched Kansas City to their ninth straight victory and a sweep the three-game series.
"He was pretty good," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He was laboring. He had that real clean first inning. He had like seven or eight pitches and then labored after that.
"But that's a mark of a good pitcher. They can labor, but they always contain, they always keep it manageable. He did that again today."
Down by three runs in the fifth inning with Joe Mauer on first base, Trevor Plouffe smashed what looked like a two-run homer to center field, but Lorenzo Cain reached over the fence to bring the ball back.
"When Plouffe I wasn't sure if was warning track or going to go out of the ballpark," Yost said. "I kept watching Cain go back, back, back, and when he got and I saw he extended out over the fence and caught the ball, it was a phenomenal play."
The red-hot Royals battered Twins pitchers all game, banging out 11 hits, with the most damaging coming in the sixth when they scored twice to make it 7-2 and put the game out of reach.
"Not a good baseball game. Ugly early," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. It didn't look like the boys were ready and missed some plays. That's the most frustrating part of the game.
"I think we had been trying to stay in (games). But this was unacceptable. (The Royals) came in here and wanted it more than us. The Royals found ways to win. And we didn't."
Twins starter Scott Diamond never found his rhythm. The Royals hit him early and never let up, tagging him for three hits in the second inninig.
Salvador Perez singled to left and Cain followed with single. Plouffe mishandled Miguel Tejada's hard grounder to third and then Perez scored on Mike Moustakas' sacrifice fly. Justin Maxwell singled to left, scoring Cain for a 2-0 lead.
In the third, Alex Gordon tripled for the second time in two games and scored on Eric Hosmer's sacrifice fly.
The Twins battled back in the third with a leadoff double by Brian Dozier, who had just returned after missing three games because of an injury. He moved to third on Doug Bernier's groundout to short and scored on Mauer's groundout.
Justin Morneau, who had been mentioned in trade talks one day earlier, got his second extra-base hit of the game and ninth homer of the season -- a 410-foot shot over the center-field fence in the third that pulled the Twins to 3-2.
Diamond walked Cain to lead off the fourth, gave up singles to Tejada and Moustakas and allowed another run when Alcides Escobar beat out a potential double-play grounder.
In the sixth, Diamond walked Maxwell, gave up a single to Escobar and was done for the day. He threw 92 pitches in five innings, plus two batters, allowing six earned runs, nine hits and three walks.
After the game, Diamond was sent down to Triple-A.
"It's been a struggle for him," Gardenhire said. "He's fighting it too. He has said it himself. ... He puts a lot of pressure on himself to do well."
NOTES: Before the game, the Royals put Chris Getz on the disabled list, retroactive to June 29, with a left knee sprain. The move makes room on the roster for Maxwell. ... Coming in, Twins pitchers had walked 291 batters this season, which was fourth fewest in the American League. They walked four in the game. ... The Twins have gone 22-20 in day games this season, which is tied for the fifth-best record in baseball.