Twins foil Royals in 12th to gain in Wild Card race
By Jeffrey Flanagan and Rhett Bollinger
KANSAS CITY -- Rookie Miguel Sano crushed a pinch-hit home run to left field with two out in the 12th inning to help the Twins earn a 3-2 rubber-game win over the Royals on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals' magic number to clinch the American League Central remains at 13. The Twins moved to 1 1/2 games behind the Rangers for the second Wild Card spot, with Texas' 6-0 loss at Seattle.
"It's a good win," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "You have to kind of savor those. You come back after you let them tie the game. We just had to stay with it. They came close to finding ways to win, but we kept finding ways to hold them off."
Sano took a 2-2 pitch that appeared to be strike three, so much so that reliever Franklin Morales and the Royals began walking off the field. But it was called a ball and two pitches later, Sano delivered his 16th homer of the season, a towering shot over the Royals' bullpen in left field.
"The pitch was right there, man," Morales said. "But if he misses it, he misses it. That's baseball."
Added Royals manager Ned Yost, "He definitely got an extra chance. But we had other opportunities to win the game."
Kansas City starter Kris Medlen had a no-hitter through five. He left after six innings, giving up three hits and two runs.
Right-hander Mike Pelfrey went 5 1/3 innings for the Twins, giving up five hits and one run.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Sano doubt about it: Sano continued his impressive rookie season and came through with his biggest homer of the year. It was his first at-bat since Monday, as he was held out of the starting lineup on Tuesday and Wednesday to give him a mental and physical break amid a slump and a strained right hamstring. But when the Twins needed him most, he came through a towering shot to left for his 16th homer in his 57th game. More >
"I was just trying to hit a line drive," Sano said. "He just threw a fastball inside and I was able to hit a homer to help my team win the game. I was so happy. That was a big moment to hit a home run like that."
Missed chances:The Royals twice had chances to win it in the ninth and 10th innings. In the ninth, speedster Terrance Gore pinch-ran for Mike Moustakas at first base and stole second with one out. But Salvador Perez hit a harmless flyout. Gore then stole third, but Alex Rios grounded out to short. In the 10th, pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson stole second and third with one out. The Twins employed a five-man infield and Lorenzo Cain bounced back to the pitcher: Dyson was out easily at home. Eric Hosmer then tapped out to second base.
Yost said Gore had the green light to steal third in the ninth with one out, but Gore didn't try.
"I just never got the look I wanted," Gore said. "The pitcher did a good job of changing it up."
Suzuki's blast spoils no-no: Medlen had a no-hitter through five innings before Kurt Suzuki got the Twins on the board with a solo shot to left to open the sixth. The homer came on an 0-1 fastball and was his fifth of the year. The Twins added another run in the sixth on an RBI single from Joe Mauer, but Brian Dozier was thrown out trying to advance to third on the play. Suzuki later left the game with a bruised left knee on a home-plate collision in the 10th inning.
"It was kind of a pitchers' duel and I had faced him a few times when he was in Atlanta and I was in Washington," Suzuki said. "Just knowing what he had and stuff, I got a good pitch to hit and got the barrel on it.
Zobrist goes deep: Royals leadoff man Ben Zobrist hit liners his first two times up, but both were right at Byron Buxton in center field for outs. The third time, Zobrist tried a different strategy, ripping a Pelfrey breaking ball into the Twins' bullpen in right field for his 12th homer of the season. Zobrist also tripled in the eighth and scored on Cain's sacrifice fly, tying the score at 2. More >
"We're trying to find ways to win, but I think these games in September with these atmospheres on the road, our guys' pulse rates are probably up there a little more than they're used to. But they're finding ways to perform in those circumstances." -- Molitor
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
With runners on first and third with one out in the 10th, Cain hit a comebacker to reliever Blaine Boyer, whose throw took Suzuki up the third-base line. Dyson collided with Suzuki on the play, and the Royals thought Suzuki blocked the plate and challenged the play. But after a review, the call on the field was confirmed. Suzuki left with a bruised left knee, and is day to day according to the club. More >
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Sano's pinch-hit homer was the first by the Twins this season, and their first since Oswaldo Arcia on May 22, 2013.
WHAT'S NEXT Twins: After an off-day on Thursday, right-hander Ervin Santana (4-4, 4.93 ERA) will start on Friday at 7:10 p.m. CT in the opener of a three-game series against the AL Central rival White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. Santana has yielded just one run over his last 15 innings with 21 strikeouts in that stretch.
Royals: Following Thursday's off-day, left-hander Danny Duffy (7-7, 4.17) will get the ball on Friday at 6:05 p.m. CT for the opener of a three-game set against the Orioles at Camden Yards. Duffy owns a 4.50 ERA over his last six starts, and he went seven innings last time out against the White Sox for his longest outing since Aug. 4.