Royals raise division lead by sweeping Twins

Royals raise division lead by sweeping Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- Alex Gordon clubbed a three-run homer and Edinson Volquez fired seven strong innings as the Royals rolled to a 7-2 win over the Twins on Wednesday night to complete a three-game sweep at Target Field.

The Twins came into the series with a one-game lead in the AL Central, but now trail the Royals by two games. The Royals came into this series having lost nine of 12.

"We kind of expected that once we got out of the slump we could get on a roll again," manager Ned Yost said.

Gordon's homer, his seventh, capped a four-run first for the Royals off starter Kyle Gibson.

Gibson labored through six innings, giving up five hits and four earned runs while walking two and striking out six. He threw 117 pitches.

Volquez earns the win

Volquez gave up six hits and one earned run, while helping preserve a tired bullpen that was without Wade Davis and Greg Holland. Volquez walked three and struck out six.

"I had a good fastball early and late, but kind of lost it in the middle," Volquez said. "But my changeup saved me there in the fifth and sixth."

Minnesota's Torii Hunter was ejected for arguing after being called out on strikes by home-plate umpire Mark Ripperger in the eighth. It was the ninth career ejection for Hunter, who then proceeded to fire his batting gloves and jersey onto the field. Manager Paul Molitor also was ejected, his first as a skipper.

Hunter, Molitor get tossed

"I thought the last pitch he called a strike was revenge because I said something the pitch before that," Hunter said of Ripperger. "We have bad days, all of us. As hitters, pitchers, even umpires have bad days, and he had one."

Molitor said he told Ripperger that he "had a bad night."

"I thought they were cheering that I was arguing for a change, but when I turned around, I saw the jersey coming off and then I realized that Torii hadn't quite reached the end of his whatever you want to call it," Molitor said.

Gordon said of Hunter, "Everybody loves and respects Torii in our clubhouse. Maybe he was just trying to fire everyone up."

Added Yost, "A lot of times you just see yelling and screaming. This time we got a little striptease."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Gordon's blast: The Royals punched a hole in the game in the first inning. After Eric Hosmer singled in the game's first run, Gordon faced Gibson with two on and two out. Gordon belted a 3-2 changeup over the right-field fence for a three-run homer that gave the Royals a commanding 4-0 lead. According to Statcast™, the homer was projected to land 383 feet from home plate and left the stadium at a velocity of 103 mph.

"They threw me a 3-2 changeup yesterday and I swung through it," Gordon said. "I had it in the back of my mind to look for a changeup. I got it."

Added Yost, "That was nice to give everyone breathing room and some cushion."

Sloppy on defense: Three errors led to three unearned runs. Jorge Polanco and Hunter made errors on the same play in the fifth inning. Polanco made an error on a grounder which ended up in right field, and Hunter made a wild throw, allowing Alcides Escobar to score. In the seventh, a Joe Mauer throw pulled Polanco off of second, which paved the way for two unearned runs.

Escobar scores on two errors

Moustakas atones: Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas booted a potential double-play ball by Kurt Suzuki in the sixth and suddenly the Twins had runners on first and second with none out. The Twins were down, 5-1, but could have crept back in it. But with one out, Shane Robinson hit a grounder right at Moustakas, who fielded it cleanly this time, stepped on third and threw to first for a double play.

Moustakas' RBI single

Plouffe comes through: Third baseman Trevor Plouffe drove in both of the Twins' runs. Plouffe has been slumping lately, but with two on and two outs in the third, he delivered a single right up the middle off of Volquez, driving in Aaron Hicks. Plouffe added a solo home run to left in the eighth.

Plouffe's RBI single

ROYALS WIN CHALLENGE
The Royals challenged a play at second base in the seventh when first baseman Mauer, trying to get a force on Salvador Perez, threw wide to shortstop Polanco. Perez originally was ruled out. But the call was overturned as it appeared on replay that Polanco's foot came off the bag before he had possession.

Perez is safe at second base

WHAT'S NEXT
Royals: After an off-day on Thursday, right-hander Yordano Ventura starts on Friday when the I-70 Series against the Cardinals resumes at 7:15 p.m. CT. Ventura will be making his Busch Stadium debut. He lost to the Cards in May, giving up four runs over seven innings.

Twins: Left-hander Tommy Milone starts the opener of a three-game series against the Rangers at Globe Life Park on Friday at 7:05 p.m. CT. Milone is making just his second start since being recalled from Triple-A Rochester. He gave up four runs -- two earned -- in five innings against Boston in his previous start.

Watch every out-of-market regular season game live on MLB.TV.

Jeffrey Flanagan is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB. Betsy Helfand is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.